Dam If You Do, Dam If You Don’t
The militant group Bayan said that National Disaster Coordinating Council chief and Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro should also be held accountable for the flooding in Pangasinan.
Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo said, “Teodoro is as accountable as the dam executives. At the minimum, he should have promptly coordinated the timing and volume of the release [of water from San Roque dam] with the possible evacuation of residents and other preparations needed by the affected towns of Pangasinan.”
“It is appaling that he [Teodoro] is clueless on data as basic as the amount of water released by the San Roque Dam,” she added.
The San Roque dam’s critical level is at 290 meters above sea level. Based on available data, water levels already spiked as early as October 4 and continued to rise until October 9. Data from the weather bureau’s website showed that the water levels jumped from 281 meters to 284 meters above see level as early as October 4, and moved up to 289.1 meters from October 6 to October 9.
Had this data been diligently studied, and presented as a serious concern, then an earlier release of water may have brought down the water levels without having it reach the near critical water level of 290 meters. Also, if this information was already available on October 4, then perhaps Pangasinan residents could have been warned and informed for plans to release water from the dam.
At the very least, the effects of the release of so much water from the San Roque dam could’ve been looked into, and preparations could’ve been made to prevent the serious flooding it brought to Pangasinan, which left 80% of the province flooded and underwater. Coupled with the devastating winds and rains brought by typhoon Parma (typhoon Pepeng here in the Philippines), it is no wonder that the consequences were disastrous.
A similar situation also presented itself during tropical storm Ketsana (Ondoy here in the Philippines), wherein the water levels at the Angat Dam in Bulacan almost reached the critical level of 216 meters above sea level, and had to release its water in the midst of the tropical storm. Some have suggested that the release by the Angat Dam is what is responsibled for the flashfloods that ravaged and killed several people in the province of Bulacan, which includes Meycauayan City and in the towns of Marilao, Bocaue and Sta. Maria.
Of course, while it is necessary for the dams to open their spillways to prevent reaching a critical level where the dam could burst, the big complaint of citizens and a group like Bayan is that there were no announcements made by dam officials about the release of the water.
Malabon City police officer Rommel Habig, whose home was flooded during Ondoy, blames the negligent release of water from the Angat Dam as the cause of the massive flooding.
“There would have been enough time for the people to do what was necessary, if only they [dam officials] made an announcement earlier that the spillways would be opened,” said Habig.
“They issued an advisory only after the flashflood,” he claimed.
Personally, I feel that dam officials should be accountable for their negligence in not informing the proper authorities about the critical state of the water levels, and not informing the public (especially the citizens who might be affected by the dam release) that the dam would release water.
Lives could’ve been saved and preparations could have been put into place to prevent such a disaster. While the dam officials may have saved the dam from bursting, and causing even more damage, their lack of foresight and initiative to inform those who might be affected is plain irresponsible. Their responsibility to protect the dam and prevent it from bursting should also include a responsibility to protect the citizens who might suffer when the water is relesed.
At the very least, someone should make a public notice, so that a boy might know to avoid swimming in the river because the currents would be stronger. However, without any warning issued by dam officials – the consequences have been very fatal indeed.