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Vol. IV,  No. 30                         August 29 - September 4, 2004               Quezon City, Philippines


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San Roque Dam Behind the Massive Flooding 
in Pangasinan?  

After the construction of the San Roque Dam, residents of Pangasinan started experiencing six-foot high floods every time a typhoon would hit the country. Last week’s flooding was no different, as heavy rains and strong winds brought 90% of Pangasinan under water, killing six persons and affecting 59,908 families as of press time.


DAGUPAN CITY – Towns in eastern and central Pangasinan serve as catch basin for floodwaters coming from the mountains of Cordillera and Mt. Ampucao. These are Urbiztondo, San Fabian, Calasiao, Sta. Barbara, Mangaldan and Villasis towns and cities of Urdaneta, Dagupan and San Carlos. With the Ambuclao and Binga dams in the northern province of Benguet opening their gates because of the three-day heavy monsoon downpour, the San Roque dam also released several meters of water, endangering the lives of Pangasinan residents, particularly those living along the Agno river.

Cause-oriented groups in Pangasinan believe the San Roque dam, located in San Manuel town, is causing the perennial flooding of several Pangasinan towns and cities, as demonstrated during the heavy rains last week, which saw the flooding reach “disastrous proportions.”

The province’s major highways became impassable to all types of vehicles, including the Sta.Barbara-Urdaneta City, Dagupan City-Lingayen, Bugallon-Lingayen and Dagupan City-San Fabian routes.

In Dagupan, tractors ferried people along the flooded stretch of the McArthur Highway in Lucao District.

Weather Bureau’s Flood Forecasting Center based in Rosales town said the heavy rainfall might have caused the major river systems in the province to overflow and spill over plains. Recorded rainfall reached 348 mm on Thursday but this, according to the bureau, was lower compared to strong rains spawned by typhoon Chedeng that hit the country in May last year, which was up to 744 mm.

Sinocalan and Ingalera, major rivers traversing along severely affected towns in central Pangasinan, rose three feet higher than normal during the typhoon. Local officials suspect that the tributaries of these river systems are heavily silted causing water level to rise steadfastly during typhoons. The poor drainage systems in the affected cities, on the other hand, worsened the flooding problem in their localities and nearby towns.

Reports from Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) showed 59,908 families were affected and six individuals have been reported killed as of press time. Eighty percent of the province is still submerged in flood. Damage to agriculture was estimated at PhP181, 644, 500 million.

The massive flooding has prompted local officials to declare the province under a state of calamity.

Dam’s fault

Many Pangasinenses believe that the construction of the San Roque Dam could have worsened the flooding in the province. The dam is located in San Manuel, Pangasinan and started operations last years.

Initial data gathered by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance or Bayan) – Pangasinan revealed that over 88,814 households were affected in more than 90 villages. According to Rev. Fr. Eleuterio Revollido, Bayan-Pangasinan chair, “Excess water released from San Roque Dam greatly contribute to massive flooding here since it begun operating in May 2003.”

Carlos Marquez, 54, a long-time resident of Barangay Bayaoas in Urdaneta town, Pangasinan, said that there used to be flooding but not yearly and not at the height it reaches now. Since the dam’s construction, he said, they have been experiencing floods more than six feet high several times a year.

Marquez said the worst was when typhoon Chedeng hit the country in May last year. His family was forced to evacuate and their stored food and livestock destroyed. Marquez fears that his small hut would be destroyed by the constant flooding.

Typhoon Chedeng brought unprecedented flooding in central Pangasinan, just a week after San Roque Dam’s inauguration. A congressional inquiry was later conducted but no significant results came up. The San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) which operates the dam is an Independent Power Producer (IPP) funded by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

Despite protest in local and international level, San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam was approved in 1998, supposedly to address the widespread electricity problem in the country. It promised to provide 345 megawatts of electricity that, according to SRD officials, would be sufficient to support the growing need of commercial industries. The dam construction was completed in March 2003 and became operational in May.

Excess water

The SRD released excess water from its two spillways once on August 26 and twice the following day. One of the project’s major components when approved in 1998 was the flood control component. Officials say this should have been put in place before its operation and could have alleviated the recurrent flooding in the province.

A Sto. Tomas municipal councilor scored over a local radio station SRMP’s promised flood control. 

“Kahit ilang bagyo kaya raw nitong solusyonan,” he complained, “bakit  ngayon, wala pa namang bagyo, umulan lang, di na niya maampat ang tubig-ulan?”

Bayan-Pangasinan maintains that SRD has not contributed to the solution of the flooding but has in fact aggravated it. The alliance proposes the decommissioning of the dam’s operation to solve the problem.

Earlier, Mayor Amadeo Perez of Urdaneta City called on the provincial government to dispatch rubber boats to rescue residents of Sitio Cavite, San Manuel, the area nearest the SRMP spillway.

Meanwhile, the local government has implemented several flood-alleviating measures such as dredging and desiltation in Urdaneta and Dagupan towns, and reforestation along Agno River flood plains. With reports from Lyn Ramo. Bulatlat 

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