Heads should roll over Magat Dam water release—farmers

A farmer’s group wants sanctions against officials of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) which it said should be held accountable for the massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

Magat Dam
(NIA-MARIIS-DRD-Flood Forecasting and Warning System Dam Operation / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the NIA-Magat River Integrated Irrigation System was responsible for the “abrupt and irresponsible” opening of Magat Dam spillway gates during last week’s onlaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

NIA-MARIIS is the government regulator of the Magat Dam’s operations, spilling, and flood control.

The release of water from the dam have been blamed for the inundation of the two provinces, described as the worst flooding they had in the last 45 years.

Several other Luzon dams also opened gates at the height of the typhoon.

KMP chair Danilo Ramos noted that dam operators warned residents to evacuate to higher places only when the dam was only releasing water at full-scale.

“The NIA-Mariis could have warned the residents early on,” he said. “Likewise, respective government offices like the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices should have coordinated and come up with concrete plans on how to prevent flooding.”

The group explained that a more proactive evacuation of residents could have prevented the massive flooding in the region.

“They knew that accumulated rainfall from successive typhoons will overflow dams, rivers, and tributaries,” Ramos said.

“Now, nobody wants to take the blame for the flooding. All offices are saying that they have done enough preparations and are even blaming residents for refusing to evacuate. That's too lousy for an excuse," he pointed out.

KMP called on the government to immediately assist farmers and their families following the impact of Ulysses to the agriculture sector.

Isabelo Adviento of DANGGAYAN-KMP said 43,838 families or 174,970 individuals are in need of urgent help in Cagayan while 90,000 families or 450,000 individuals are affected in Isabela.

They need food, drinking water, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, medicines and clothing, he said.