Cagayan Valley flood

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - November 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Why did Cagayan and Isabela provinces experience their worst flooding in forty years? This is the question many are now trying to find answers for. There are calls for an investigation centering on the release of water by several of the country's dams. The damage caused by the flood is indeed extensive. Many were unprepared for the onslaught. Local governments in Cagayan were not ready so they are now asking for help from everyone be it from the national government or the private sector. Most of the recorded sixty-seven people killed in typhoon Ulysses are from the Cagayan Valley. Many more are still missing.

As the waters begin to recede, the blame game begins. For Cagayan Valley residents, they want heads to roll as to the sudden release of water by Magat Dam at the height of typhoon Ulysses. Magat Dam supplies water for agricultural lands in Isabela province while its hydroelectric plant is capable of 360 megawatts should the Luzon grid need it. Due to the rains brought on by typhoon Ulysses, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) which oversees the dams in the country was forced to open all seven floodgates of Magat Dam.

Dams cannot be allowed to overflow or spill. This is true for all dams in the world. Dam design has improved over the years to strengthen them and keep residents downstream safe. But there are times nature has other plans. According to the NIA, protocols as to water release were followed. They have been releasing water since Nov. 9 because of the rains brought about by the successive typhoons. If a dam overflows, the danger of collapsing increases. Should that happen, I cannot imagine the devastation it would cause to life and property.

According to a spokesperson for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the release of the Magat Dam was not the sole cause of the widespread flooding but also the overflow of the Cagayan River, again due to the rains. With the lands the Cagayan Valley already soaked from the rains, there was nowhere to go but the river. The Cagayan River is the longest and largest river in the Philippines but even that could not contain the amount of water it had to receive in the past weeks. As residents of Cagayan call for a lawsuit against the Magat Dam operators, protocols are now being reviewed by the NIA as to the timely and prudent release of water especially in the presence of a weather disturbance.

In one and a half months, the year 2020 will come to an end. Our country, our people, have gone through this very difficult year. It started with the eruption of Taal volcano in January, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic in March and it looks like it will end in typhoons. I'm sure many want this year to end. I'm sure many want to celebrate the holidays in any way they can. But let us not forget our countrymen who were devastated by the series of typhoons, some haven't even recovered from a previous one and being hit again. Let us help them in any way. In thse difficult times, there is no such thing as a little help.

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