New Magat Dam protocols released to avoid repeat of massive Ulysses flooding

The Philippine government has released a revised set of water discharge protocols for Magat Dam, one of the biggest dams in Asia, to avoid a repeat of unprecedented flooding that drowned Cagayan province during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses last year.

It was last week, during the congressional hearing on such a massive flooding incident, when the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) revealed for the first time the revised Magat Dam Protocol on Dam Discharge and Flood Warning Operation.

This was after the creation of the Dam Crisis Management Task Force dedicated to review the existing protocols and address concerns on dam management crisis.

NIA Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya attends virtually to the Joint House Committee Meeting with the Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Special Committee on North Luzon Growth Quadrangle.

The Magat River Irrigation System (MARIIS) Dam and Reservoir was developed in 1985 to optimize the utilization of the water stored in the Magat reservoir, which is located in Magat river, the largest tributary of the Cagayan River.

The irrigation facilities, including the reservoir, the intake gates to the hydroelectric plant, and the dam itself, are owned and managed by NIA.

Under the revised Magat Dam Protocol on Dam Discharge and Flood Warning Operation, improved coordination with PAGASA will be made on the impending typhoon’s landfall, the intensity of rainfall it will bring, and if there are other weather phenomenon or disturbance that may affect it.

Warning stations will then be activated 24 hours before the preemptive release of water from the Magat Dam, coupled with a public announcement through text blast.

An acknowledgment from the affected local government unit (LGU) will also be required three hours after the public announcement of the preemptive release.

Meanwhile, the preemptive release will be done when the dam reaches 190 meters above sea level (masl) and when a typhoon is expected to make landfall within 3 to 4 days in the Cordillera Autonomous Region and Regions 1, 2 and 3.

Concerned government agencies and stakeholders such as the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Philippine National Police (PNP), LGUs, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), mainstream and local media, and the locals, will also be informed of the preemptive release at least three times.

The NDRRMC Operation Center will also be asked to issue Emergency Alert and Warning Messages aside from information dissemination through media.

Further, the National Dam Safety Committee, spearheaded by NDRRMC, is underway as an oversight body for safe dam operations and for the integrity and safety of dams in our country.

NIA, along with other government agencies, is joining this committee to partake in its objectives for disaster risk reduction.

NIA Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya assured that corollary to NIA’s mandate to manage and maintain irrigation systems, the agency, along with other concerned government agencies, is doing its best in disaster risk mitigation and crisis management given the recurrence of natural disasters in our country.