Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. IV,  No. 33                             September 19 - 25, 2004                     Quezon City, Philippines


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Expect Worse Floods To Hit CL

Expect worse floods to hit Central Luzon when heavy rains fall. An expert on water studies who is also a government official believes there’s no way government’s supposed flood control system in the region can still control floods.


Floods like this are common in Pampanga's low areas.

Photo courtesy 
of Citizen's Disaster Response Center

Expect worse floods to hit Central Luzon when heavy rains fall. An expert on water studies who is also a government official believes there’s no way government’s supposed flood control system in the region can still control floods.

Relatedly, an official of the National Power Corporation (Napocor), revealed that the water reservoir of the new San Roque dam in Pangasinan appears to be unable to control waters disgorged by the Ambuklao and Binga dams, thus causing unprecedented flashfloods in Pangasinan during Typhoon Marce’s fury late August.

Leonardo Liongson, Ph.D., director of the National Hydraulic Research Center (NHRC) and professor of civil engineering at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City said “Central Luzon as a whole is a big problem [on the issue of flooding].”

Interviewed by Bulatlat over the weekend, Liongson, who is also a member of the National Water Resources Board under the Office of the President, said government has no viable flood control system even with the presence of dams, dikes and pumping stations in the region.

Officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH, Region III) in Central Luzon just north of Manila confirmed the UP engineer’s assessment on the region’s flood system.

No comprehensive flood control

Asked by Bulatlat whether there is any comprehensive flood control plan, a DPWH-Region III official, who asked not to be named, said that a plan has been presented to the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) and various non-government organizations (NGOs).

But another engineer from the same office, Albin Carreon, said that there is no master plan for the whole of Central Luzon although there are ongoing projects. These projects, like dams, dikes and pumping stations are not however enough for a full flood control network in the region.

Apparently, these projects were not built especially for worse case scenarios. One of these is the controversial San Roque dam which began operation in 2002.

Tony Calaycay, community relations officer of Napocor’s Flood Forecasting and Warning System for Dam Operations said in a phone interview that the San Roque Dam can accommodate waters spilling from Ambuklao and Binga dams in Benguet province. He said however that all three dams have small water reservoirs and minimal flood control system since the structures were only designed for power generation.

A Bulatlat report last week indeed confirmed that the San Roque Dam began operation sans the other non-power components such as flood control, irrigation and water quality.

Calaycay confirmed that when Typhoon Marce hit Luzon, Ambuklao in Bokod, Benguet and Binga in Itogon same province, released excess waters which the San Roque Dam absorbed. With the water level at the San Roque Dam rising above the 280-meter normal high water level however the dam’s spillway was kept open from Aug. 26-30.

Parang tasa rin ‘yan, kung pupunuin, aapaw din” (It’s like a cup that overflows when filled with water), Calaycay said. As a result, he added, about P70 million worth of projected generated power was lost due to the water spill. Water had to be released to prevent the dam from breaking, he said.

According to separate reports, the waters released by San Roque inundated 90 percent of Pangasinan especially the towns of San Manuel itself, Tayugg, Rosales, Bayambang and Bautista.

But Calaycay denied that the reports that the dam’s excess water caused the massive flooding in Pangasinan, and other provinces in Central Luzon, since the dam’s gate was only opened “gradually” and residents were warned an hour before the release of water.


Dikes are another matter. Built to protect communities from flood and lahar (volcanic mudflows) that has continued to stream during heavy rains since the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, dams are often damaged during massive floods. Damage to dikes is either on their foundation (called “toe damage” by engineers) or due to erosion which is common to earth dikes. In fact, the Colibangbang Dike in Paniqui, Tarlac and the Arnedo and Magliman Earthdikes both in San Fernando, Pampanga were among those damaged by cascading waters during Typhoon Marce.

Although dikes protect towns from flood they can also aggravate the flooding if the local drainage system is defective. This usually takes place when small dikes are not built strong enough to accommodate large bodies of water. When confined, water would overflow undersized dikes and eventually destroy them.

Water pump stations, on the other hand, are built to divert water from overflowing dikes to river tributaries and other channels. But Central Luzon, according to leaders of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Pampanga, has only one functional pump station and this is located in San Fernando City, the provincial capital.

Inspecting the San Fernando station on Sept. 4, Bulatlat found only one yellow small pipe is sipping in water from the Pampanga River. Some towns in the province remained flooded yet the motors of the station’s large pipes were shut down as the water near the station had subsided.

Bigger culprit

Corruption, according to Liongson, is the bigger culprit. Viable flood control projects could not be built or existing projects cannot be maintained adequately due to corruption.

Furthermore, most funds for flood control projects come from foreign assistance – which is not always available.

For instance, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) used to fund big projects in the country. To implement bigger projects today, the Philippine government borrows money from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC). The national government, as far as infrastructure is concerned, only funds operations and maintenance, Liongson said. Bulatlat

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