Two dams were in the news last week – or rather, an old established dam in Isabela and a proposed one in Quezon Province.
The Magat Dam in the Magat River, the largest tributary of the Cagayan River, the longest river in the Philippines, was built in 1975-1982 primarily for irrigation, flood control, and power generation One of Asia’s biggest dams today, it irrigates about 85,000 hectares of agricultural land in Isabela and Cagayan today.
When super-typhoon Ulysses lashed Luzon last November 11-12, its rains fell all over Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon, and the Bicol region. The biggest floods were in Isabela and Cagayan, along the route of the Cagayan river.
After the flood waters subsided, the people started returning to their homes, Then Magat Dam officials found they had to release some of the huge volume of water which now threatened the dam’s structure. This caused a new flood in the downstream areas, and people demanded an investigation into the actions of the dam officials.
Meanwhile, in Quezon Province, residents of Real. Infanta, and General Nakar, and the indigenous communities in the area renewed their opposition to the proposed construction of the P12-billion Kaliwa Dam in their area in a meeting with Gov. Danilo Suarez, citing the harm to the environment and to the people of the area .
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon, led by Vice Gov. Samuel Nantes, passed a resolution authorizing the governor to take all steps needed to stop the proposed dam. It would inundate a wide area of the province, including the traditional lands of the indigenous people.
Bishop Bernardino Cortez of the Catholic Church joined the opposition. Citing the geography of the area, he said, “Our very survival depends on the care of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of our mangroves and seashores.“
At the back of everyone’s mind was the flooding caused by Magat Dam’s release of excessive water last November, hitting the towns just when they thought the danger was all over. Magat Dam released more water last weekend, causing new floods, as rains continued to fall. It could well also happen to Quezon if the Kaliwa Dam is built in their midst.