Press Release
July 27, 2011

Legarda Calls for Effective Early Warning Systems for Dam Water Release

Senator Loren Legarda today warned local government officials and government agencies to maintain strict vigilance as heavy rains continue to pour, leading to the near spilling level of several dams in the country.

Legarda cited an update from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) that water levels at Ipo Dam and La Mesa Dam are 99.5m and 79.87m, respectively, as of July 27, 10:00 a.m..

The spilling levels of these dams are 100.2 and 80.15, respectively.

"We should be reminded of what happened during Pepeng, when waters from the San Roque Dam were 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 our citizenry as they are evacuated to safety," the Senator stressed.

"Our experiences with 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 They are either underutilized or outdated or inadequate to effectively predict typhoons, determine their intensity, and communicate warning to everyone exposed to these hazards," she added.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Regional Champion for Asia-Pacific explained 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 recounted that in 2009, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, which she chairs, conducted a series of public hearings after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng. A matter of discussion in these hearings was dam operations as waters were released based on outdated protocols, flooding several provinces in Luzon.

Legarda noted that the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) has submitted to the Committee its revised Flood Operation Rules for Ambuklao and Binga Dam, which serve as inputs to the downstream San Roque dam operations.

"In a letter signed by Mr. Froilan Tampinco dated August 5, 2010, NAPOCOR said they are engaging an independent expert from the academe to review the San Roque dam protocol on handling the excess water dam releases," said Legarda, soliciting an update on the status of this review.

"It has been a year since this review and having learned from Pangasinan's tragic experience two years ago, has the San Roque dam water release protocol been updated?," she inquired.

"I renew my call to the Department of Energy and dam operators - NAPOCOR, Metropolitan Waterworks And Sewerage System and the National Irrigation Administration 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. Our hydropower systems must be disaster and climate risk-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," she stressed.

"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 heeded by the communities," Legarda concluded.

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