Magat Dam release sends hundreds to evacuation centers

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    Magat Dam spillway. (File photo from NIA-Magat Dam)

    HUNDREDS of residents of Cagayan and Isabela provinces remain in evacuation centers due to the opening of the gates of Magat Dam in the past four days, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

    NDRRMC deputy spokesman Mark Timbal said that as of yesterday afternoon, 81 families or 319 persons are still housed in evacuation centers after their preemptive evacuation.

    Forty-seven families or 198 persons were evacuated from low-lying areas of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and 34 families or 121 individuals were evacuated from risk areas in San Mateo town in Cagayan.

    Timbal said the local government units implemented the evacuation before Thursday last week when Magat Dam gates were opened because of rains
    brought by a low pressure area.

    The dam’s three gates were still open as of yesterday morning, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

    The release of water from the dam, Timbal said, caused flooding in the low-lying Barangays Linao and Annafunan, both in Tuguegarao City.

    Timbal said the two barangays experienced flooding in the past even if the Cagayan River is not in danger of overflowing.

    Magat Dam is located in the Magat River which is a major tributary of the Cagayan River.
    Timbal said Isabela residents, while not at high risk from flooding, were also evacuated as a precaution.

    Timbal said the National Irrigation Authority issued an advisory, prior to the release of water from the dam.

    “As early as (November) 26, NIA issued a warning that they are going to release water. LGUs are aware of it… The LGUs also issued a warning as a precaution and evacuated people from the low-lying areas,” he said.

    “But the reports that we got from the field showed the flooding was not as worst as before because the rains were only light to moderate,” said Timbal.

    A large part of the province was submerged early this month due to typhoon “Ulysses.”

    Local officials also attributed the widespread flooding to the abrupt release of water from Magat Dam.

    Meanwhile, PAGASA is monitoring a low-pressure outside the Philippine area of responsibility.

    The LPA, which is about 1,500 km east of Mindanao, is expected to enter the country within 24 hours – from 5 a.m. yesterday.

    Weather specialist Benison Estareja said the LPA has a small chance of developing into a tropical depression.

    “But it will bring rains in the next two to three days while approaching the Visayas and southern Luzon,” Estareja said.

    CLIMATE EMERGENCY

    Speaker Lord Allan Velasco supported a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency, to encourage swift action to combat climate change and its impacts.

    “Declaring a climate emergency means recognizing that climate crisis is the fight of our lives and that there is an urgent need for a massive-scale mobilization to protect Filipinos and the environment from climate change and its devastating impacts,” Velasco said.

    House Resolution (HR) 1377 also seeks to mobilize government agencies and instrumentalities, together with local government units, to effectively implement environmental, climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

    The House committee on disaster resilience has also adopted HR 535 expressing the sense of the legislative body that there is a disaster climate emergency requiring a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society and whole-of-nation policy response to anticipate, halt, reduce, reverse, address and adopt to its impacts, consequences and causes.”

    Velasco said the massive devastation caused by recent tropical cyclones, including typhoons “Rolly” and Ulysses which caused the worst flooding in Metro Manila and Cagayan Valley in years, “has made it imperative for the country to pursue stronger climate-adaptive and -resilient measures.” – With Wendell Vigilia