Lawmakers push for the creation of the Philippine Dam Authority

Lawmakers urged Congress to fast track the approval of a
measure establishing the proposed Philippine Dam Authority that would
rationalize and unify the management of dams, put order and
systematize the release of reservoir water and to avoid loss of lives
and property.

Rep. Angelo Palmones (Party-list, AGHAM), one of the authors of House
Bill 5402, said the bill seeks to improve and strengthen the
organization, responsible for the dissemination of information and
warning of impending discharge of dam water, improve its manpower for
a better delivery of its services to the nation and review outdated
and inefficient flood-control protocols.

Malacañang is reportedly considering the creation of the dam
authority in charge of the release of water from the dams.

Palmones said when typhoons Pedring and Quiel hit Central Luzon
recently, the estimated damage to infrastructure and agriculture was
P9.5 billion and death toll was placed at 82 with 45 missing persons.

Palmones said these were all brought by flood waters and triggered
in-flow of water into dams in Ambuklao, Binga and San Roque.  San
Roque dam received over flows than the two other dams which brought
the level of water in the reservoir beyond its Normal High Water Level
(NHWL) of 280 m Mean Sea Level (AMS) and into the Maximum Surcharge
Water Level (MSWL) of 290 m AMSL.

“When this water level is exceeded the spillway gates are opened to
maintain 290 m AMSL, otherwise there is the possibility that the
reservoir wall will be breached and the dam water will flow beyond
control causing unimaginable damage downstream,” Palmones explained.

Rep. Kimi Cojuangco (5th District, Pangasinan), another author of the
measure, said the actual level of the San Roque dam did not actually
reach the MSWL of 290 m AMSL since even before the landfall of
Pedring, the dam had been spilling water through its turbines.

Cojuangco said with the eminent higher inflow of water into the dam
the spillway gates were opened and the already high flood waters in
most of Pangasinan further rose and was complicated by the high tide
which prevented the flow of the water into the sea resulting to
excessive flooding.

“While Pangasinan was reeling from the effects of flood waters,
Bulacan towns were equally suffering from floods due to rains brought
by typhoons Pedring and Quiel,” Cojuangco said.

Cojuangco said in both instances, there has been a lot of
finger-pointing as to the parties responsible for the extensive
flooding in Pangasinan and most of Central Luzon.

“The San Roque dam managers have been slammed for the untimely release
of water from the dam while the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR)
criticized the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) for not allowing
them to release water from the Angat Dam, which could have prevented
heavy flooding in Bulacan during the onslaught of Typhoon Pedring,”
Cojuangco said.

Rep. Randolph Ting (3rd District, Cagayan), co-author of the bill,
said an environment activist group blamed the government for being
irresponsible for not doing much to prevent flooding, knowing the
impacts of climate change on the weather.

“The private group claimed that it is still the private corporations
which decide when to release water from the dam.  They said this very
important function should be at the government’s hands but because the
large dams are privatized, the government could only monitor the dam
water level and advice these corporations when to release water from
the dam,” Ting said.

Ting said the local government of Bulacan blamed the massive floods
on the release of water from Ipo, Angat and Bustos dams but NAPOCOR
was quick to deny this and said that water coming from Nueva Ecija and
Pampanga contributed to the rise in water level.

Under the measure to be known as the “Philippine Dam Authority Act of
2011,” the PDA shall maintain proper operating conditions of all dams
in the country establish and maintain in each of the dams a Flood
Forecasting and Warning System Dam Office and determine the inflow of
flood water into the dam.

Under the bill, the Authority shall monitor the level of water in the
dam and when a telemetered forecasting system is in place, coordinate
with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services
Administration (PAGASA) in the monitoring of water level in the dam.

It shall review and revise flood forecasting and warning systems
protocol in all of the existing and future dams that will be
subsequently established; issue flood warnings to concerned
authorities in affected areas and issue warnings of impending opening
of spillway gates when there is a need to open the same.

The bill mandates the Department of National Defense in coordination
with other government agencies concerned to issue the implementing
rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.

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