Dam execs blamed for Cagayan, Isabela floods
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya— A former governor of Cagayan has blamed officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for the massive floods that submerged wide areas in northern Isabela and Cagayan following the onslaught of Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” last month.
In a statement, former Gov. Edgar Lara said managers of Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela, should be held responsible for the flooding of communities along the banks of the Cagayan River.
Dam managers, he said, had failed to monitor the volume of water flowing into the Magat River, which could have prevented the release of huge volumes of water that triggered the floods.
“Such failure on the part of the dam managers’ borders on criminal negligence or, at the very least, civil responsibility for the billions of pesos worth of agricultural crops damaged, not to mention human lives lost,” he said.
The Magat hydroelectric project, located at the border of Isabela and Ifugao, is designed to supply an additional 360 megawatts of electricity to the Luzon grid and to irrigate about 85,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Isabela and Cagayan.
Reports from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Cagayan Valley showed the typhoons destroyed P115 million worth of roads, dikes and bridges and P1 billion worth of crops, mostly rice and corn. At least 19 people died from typhoon-related incidents in Cagayan Valley.
Mariano Dancel, former operations manager of the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System, said water is released from the dam after consulting with the governors of Cagayan and Isabela.
“If [Lara] has a complaint regarding our dam releases, he should raise it with the provincial governors concerned. We are not politicians like himself,” said Dancel, who was among the 15 NIA officials ordered relieved from their posts by President Benigno Aquino III last week due to the reorganization program in the agency.
Lara said dam managers could have been prompted to release water earlier and prevented massive flooding downstream if only they knew how to use data from water level gauges along the Magat River.
“Had [dam officials] diligently observed and used the data from their water inflow meters, they could have determined in advance the volume of water that was [flowing into] the dam and could have made the decision to release water earlier than they did,” he said.
Lara urged concerned agencies to put in place corrective measures. “Otherwise, our people will continue to suffer incalculable losses, not only of their means of livelihood, but their lives as well,” he said.
Bonifacio Cuarteros, action officer of the Cagayan Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said widespread flooding in Cagayan has always been caused by a combination of heavy inflow from the tributaries of the Magat River and from the release of water from Magat Dam.
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