DAGUPAN City, Philippines—Pangasinan residents braced themselves as the National Power Corp. began releasing water from the San Roque Dam in San Manuel town at noon on Thursday, not prospectively on Friday as earlier reported.
“We were all nervous,” said Jesus Limos, head of Lipay, a vegetable producing village by the Agno River in Villasis.
Villasis Councilor Roderick Mina said the people’s fear was valid because they experienced the trauma of being flooded in 2009 due to the sudden release of water from the dam.
On Wednesday night, a San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC) official sent text messages to different media outlets in Pangasinan, saying the National Power Corp. had advised them to open one of the dam’s spillway gates by half a meter and release water at 79 cubic meters per second.
Tommy Valdez, SRPC vice president for corporate social responsibility, said that the dam’s water elevation had reached 279.68 meters above sea level at 9 a.m. Thursday, slightly less than the spilling level of 280 meters.
Limos said that if his village gets flooded again, millions of pesos worth of vegetables will be destroyed. This village is the Villasis’ leading producer of eggplants.
“But I think with the volume of water that they will be releasing, we will not be flooded,” Limos said. “I think the Agno River, at its present level, will be able to absorb it,” he said.
Roger Tan, a rice miller in Barangay (village) Carmen East in the municipality of Rosales, who lost P10 million in 2009, said Napocor officials should release more water to give more space to rainwater expected to be dumped by an incoming storm.
Former Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco said the dam should have a total outflow of 500 cubic meters per second, adding that 79 cubic meters per second was “too small” a volume of water to ease pressure on the facility.
“At present, the dam is on its full power generation and it utilizes 260 cms (cubic meters per second). So, another 240 cms would bring it up to 500 cms,” he said.
But Cojuangco said the San Roque Dam operators could not do it because by spilling water at 500 cubic meters per second, the weir of the National Irrigation Administration at the bottom of the spillways would be crushed.
“So, how can they operate the dam properly if the operators have a constraint in releasing water?” Cojuangco said. He said he was told that the weir would be fixed by July 2012.
“My point is: just because of irrigation, public safety is compromised. The [weir] is not right and they have to correct it,” Cojuangco said.