Irrigation official blames logging for Luzon flood

FLOODED Tumauini due to water released by Magat Dam Nov 14. — PHILSTAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

AN IRRIGATION official on Tuesday blamed illegal logging for the floods that submerged many parts of Luzon this month, saying water from Magat Dam was not the major cause of flooding in Cagayan Valley and Isabela provinces at the height of Typhoon Vamco.

The agency had also followed protocols and gave enough information to local governments before water from the dam was released, Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya told a House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday.

He also presented a matrix showing that while Magat dam had 7,128 cubic meters of water during the typhoon locally named Ulysses, the dam released only 6,706 cubic meters.

Mr. Visaya said strictly enforcing laws against illegal logging and mining would have prevented the floods.

He also said flood control is not part of the functions of Magat dam in Isabela. But the agency always tries to ease flood waters during the rainy season, he added.

During the hearing, lawmakers asked the dam operator to revisit protocols on water release to prevent a repeat of devastating floods that submerged many parts of Luzon this month.

Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco said dam protocols should be reviewed to ease the destructive power of typhoons.

“It seems to me that we are merely acting on early warnings and not being proactive in times of critical danger,” Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy told the hearing.

“There doesn’t seem to be one agency that can account for what truly caused the flooding, or analyze forecasts and recommend measures to mitigate damage in the future,” she added. Dam protocols were created in 2006.

Meanwhile, the House disaster committee adopted a resolution calling for a declaration of climate emergency in the country.

This would commit the entire country and its fiscal resources to a policy of climate resilience, said Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who wrote the resolution.

“It commits us to a national policy of adopting disaster and climate resilience as ultimate state objectives,” he said in a Viber message. “The most concrete provision commits the budget process to this end.”

Mr. Salceda also said the declaration of a climate emergency would boost the country’s leverage to seek concessions from heavily industrialized economies.

“Small island countries are already pursuing legal action on the matter of climate reparations,” he said in a separate statement. “The Philippines should consider making amicable manifestations, if not outright joining such suits.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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