PAGASA: Review and update dam protocols

Published November 27, 2020, 9:31 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has welcomed the creation of a “dam oversight committee,” adding that protocols on dam operations in the country need to be reviewed and updated.

“With the oversight committee, siguro pwedeng i-revisit ang mga protocols para maayos at magkaroon ng harmony (we can revisit the protocols and fix these to have harmony) in terms of opening or operating of the dams,” PAGASA Administrator Vicente Malano said during an online forum on Friday.

According to Malano, many of the existing protocols could be improved once the committee was established such as needing to assess the latest capacity of the dams and the conditions of the facilities which he said both may have changed over the years.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) announced on Thursday that a committee will be set up to oversee the state weather bureau and dam operators in controlling the opening of gates of dams during typhoons.

This came following the massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela due to the release of water from Magat Dam, as well as the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Ulysses, which raised concerns on the management of the watershed.

However, Malano said that protocols have been followed in discharging waters from the Magat Dam which was also coordinated with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“Nasunod naman yung protocol. Hindi lang talaga nakayanan ng river system itong dami ng tubig na ibinuhos hindi lang ni Ulysses, pati na rin ng frontal system na halos magkasabay ang occurrence doon sa Cagayan at sa upstream ng Cagayan River Basin,” the PAGASA chief explained.

(The protocol was followed. It was just the river system had reached its maximum capacity not only because of the heavy rains poured by Ulysses but also by the frontal system that both occurred in Cagayan and the upstream of the Cagayan River Basin.)

Malano added that nearby mountain ranges also became very saturated following the successive typhoons and could no longer absorb as much rainfall as they normally could, causing rainfall to flow directly to the reservoirs.

But Malano clarified that PAGASA does not have the authority to release water from dam reservoirs as it is only monitoring water levels and provides “flood warning” to communities that are likely to be affected by the release of water from the dams.

“Yung binabasehan na protocol kasi ng NIA at PAGASA ngayon ay yung directive pa from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (The protocols that the NIA and PAGASA are following now is from the directive of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo),” he said.

With this, the state weather agency head further hopes that reviewing the protocols for dam operations would clarify and rationalize PAGASA’s role in the management of the watershed facilities.