Sunday, June 26, 2011
SENATE OFFICE, Manila, June 27, 2011-To maintain strict vigilance as heavy rains continue to pour, leading to the overflowing of several dams and rivers in the country, Senator Loren Legarda calls for effective early warning system for Dam water release as she warned local government officials and government agencies to the possible bad effects of it if mistaken.
“The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that the recent heavy rains were 14 times higher than the daily average recorded every June of the previous years,” Legarda cited, revealing that the continuous heavy rains had led to the overflow of Tullahan and Marikina rivers as well as the La Mesa, Ipo, Binga and Ambuklao dams which reached their spilling level.
Legarda furthered that thousands of families in affected areas were brought to different evacuation centers saying that over 69,000 families in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Bicol Region were affected by Typhoon Falcon. In Marikina alone, at least 25,000 residents near the Marikina River were evacuated.
“We should be reminded of what happened during Pepeng, when waters from the San Roque Dam which was unduly released in the middle of the night. The dam operators, local and government officials must be vigilant in monitoring the situation round-the-clock, ensure that the proper protocols are followed, employ their early warning systems and guarantee the safety of the Filipinos as they are evacuated to safety,” the Senator stressed, adding that the country’s experiences with the typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Basyang exposed the country’s lack of an effective weather forecasting and early warning communications systems.
“They are either underutilized or outdated or inadequate to effectively predict typhoons, determine their intensity, and communicate warning to everyone exposed to these hazards,” Legarda said, revealing that the critical gaps in operational, scientific and institutional capacity can lead to increasing the vulnerability of the poorest sectors those living in high-risk areas and whose livelihoods are at the mercy of extreme weather events.
Legarda bats the Department of Energy and the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) to review their planning and operations in light of the science available and to ensure that extreme weather events are taken into consideration in the process.
“The lesson that we encountered two years ago must be reminded so that the dam operators should follow water release protocols,” Legarda said. “Have the dam operators updated their water release protocols?” she asked.
Legarda said that the country’s hydropower systems must be climate-resilient, which entails measures for improved management of our dams linked to reliable weather forecasts and effective early warning systems for communities at risk of floods due to dam water releases.
“As dams reach spilling levels due to heavy rains, it must be ensured by the operators that they do not indiscriminately release dam waters, that the warnings reach the communities that will be affected and that the alerts allow them to respond ahead of time. Meanwhile, our local governments must make sure that flood warnings are heed by the communities,” Legarda concluded.
It could be remembered that last 2009, the Senate Committee on Climate Change conducted a series of public hearings after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng which was chaired by Legarda where they discussed the dam operations and management which waters were released based on outdated protocols, flooding several provinces in Luzon. (Jason de Asis)
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