The National Irrigation Administration (NIA), along with other government dam administrators, has started to review protocols on water discharges from Magat Dam to prevent the repeat of widespread flooding in Cagayan Valley.

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Magat Dam (NIA-MARIIS-DRD-Flood Forecasting and Warning System Dam Operation / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The review of NIA protocols regarding the Magat Dam’s release of water is ongoing with the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), and the National Power Corporation, NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya said during the Laging Handa public briefing on Wednesday.

The protocol being used was last updated in 2006 during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Visaya said.

“Ang nakalagay sa protocol ang pagpapalabas ng tubig ay actually manggagaling sa PAGASA at sasabihin sa amin na nasa preemptive ano na tayo at kailangan na magrelease ng tubig. That is about two to three days ang nakalagay sa protocol before dumating ang bagyo. (The protocol states that the discharge will actually come from PAGASA and will tell us that we are in the preemptive stage and need to release water. That is about two to three days before the storm arrives under the current protocol),” he said.

Reacting to suggestions by some sectors to maintain Magat Dam’s water level between 165 meters and 175 meters, Visaya said they have followed a rule curve or  minimum reservoir elevation that ensured the availability of water coming from the dam.

The water level of Magat Dam was at 188 meters to 191 meters weeks before the back-to-back cyclones affected the country, just a few meters short of its 193-meter spilling level.

“Masakit man ang nangyari sa atin (What happened to us hurts but), this gave us a chance to review our protocol),” Visaya said.

He noted that NIA is also open to suggestions that will transfer the authority of releasing water from dam reservoirs to the NDRRMC during typhoons.

“Kung titignan natin ang mandate ng NDRRMC, nasa mandato naman nila ‘yan. Kaya bago pa kami magbigay ng recommendation, first thing we will do is review the protocol. Kung makita natin na mas maganda na i-transfer ang authority to NDRRMC to release water from dams, so be it, no problem. (If we look at the mandate of the NDRRMC, it is actually included in their mandate. So before giving a recommendation, the first thing we will do is review the protocol. If we find it better to transfer authority to the NDRRMC to release water from dams, so be it, no problem),” Visaya said.

He also welcomed investigations on his alleged neglect of duty on the water discharge operations of Magat Dam.

“I was kept in touch with our project manager at the MARIIS (Magat River Integrated Irrigation System. Every hour, I am given a situation update. Also at our level through text messages I also give a situation update to NDRRMC’s (Executive Director Ricardo) Jalad and chairman of the board Secretary (Karlo) Nograles,” Visaya said.

“We are ready to show what we did because the actions taken by our reservoir dam division in Magat are well documented. It’s good that (there will be an investigation). We want that so that nothing like this (flooding) will happen again. This is an opportunity for us to review everything,” he added.

As of Wednesday, Magat Dam was slightly lower at 191.93 meters.

Visaya said water inflow from five tributaries in Nueva Vizcaya and three in Ifugao is still strong. Water inflow into the Magat Dam was measured at 553 cubic meters per second, while outflow was at 646 cubic meters per second.

“Nagstabilize na ang situation sa Magat Dam. Sana itigil na ang pagsisisihan. This is not the time to blame anybody but this is time for us to unite and cooperate. ‘Yung nangyayari ngayon alam na po natin kung ano ang dahilan. It will take a whole-of-nation approach para mabigyan ng solution itong mga naging problema natin na ito. (The situation at Magat Dam has stabilized. I hope the blame-tossing will stop. This is not the time to blame anybody but this is time for us to unite and cooperate. What is happening now, we already know what the reason is. It will take a whole-of-nation approach to provide a solution to these problems we have had,” Visaya said.

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