NDRRMC: Dams do not worsen flooding

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) - The country's disaster management agency on Thursday responded to criticisms on water discharge that led to recent heavy flooding in some areas in Luzon, maintaining that dams, in general, are not designed to worsen flooding.

In his briefing, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council lead spokesperson Director Peter Galvez briefly responded to criticisms on Magat Dam's protocols, which critics earlier blamed to have caused the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

"We just like to add that at a certain point in time, dams are flood control measures. They're not there to worsen flooding," Galvez said.

He added: "At a certain time, Magat Dam was actually having more water flowing into the dam than it was letting out. It was really trying to control the spilling."

Over the weekend, infrastructure-oriented think tank Infrawatch Philippines noted that the impact of Ulysses, which supposedly dumped only "a third" of the rainfall during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, could have been mitigated with "forward planned multi-dam discharges under a single authority."

He also said dam operators such as the National Irrigation Administration and the National Power Corporation should be made accountable for opening dam gates at the height of the typhoon and lacking efforts on information dissemination to let residents prepare beforehand.

State weather bureau PAGASA reported last week that Ipo and Angat dams in Bulacan only opened their gates last Thursday, November 12, the very day that Ulysses pummeled Luzon. The Caliraya Dam in Laguna issued a notice of dam discharge to local governments at 2 a.m on the same day.

Magat Dam in Cagayan already had nine gates opened a day after the typhoon already made landfall. But the NIA said in a separate statement that it followed proper protocols to prevent overspilling that may lead to dam breakage. It added that it also advised Cagayan and Isabela residents about the calibrated opening as early as November 9.

Mark Timbal, also a spokesperson for the NDRRMC, previously told CNN Philippines that the agency will study the proposal of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to have the council oversee dam discharge. Timbal said they could accommodate sending warnings on gate openings for the meantime.

Ulysses left at least 73 dead, 24 injured and 19 missing as of Thursday due to heavy flooding in a number of provinces.