The government committed no shortcoming in preparing and responding to the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses but will “strive to do better” in the event of another calamity, Malacañang said Monday.
In the wake of the massive floods that hit Cagayan, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque insisted that the government actually prepared for the arrival of the typhoon in the region. Roque however said local authorities did “not expect the gravity of the amount of water that descended on the lowlands.”
“Of course, we always strive to have better response performance lalung-lalo na pagdating sa kalamidad. Pero ang sinasabi po natin, dito sa nangyari sa Cagayan, eh talagang we prepared for it. (Of course we always strive to have better response performance especially during calamities. But what we’re saying is with what happened in Cagayan, we really prepared for it),” he said during a televised press briefing.
“As the Governor himself said, they did not actually expect this much water discharge into Cagayan Valley. So, we will strive to do better, pero sa tingin ko po, wala naman pong pagkukulang (but I think there was no shortcoming) but we will always strive to be better,” he said.
Roque said climate change, deforestation, and illegal mining are among the factors that contributed to the floods in the northern region.
He stressed that there must be a worldwide effort to reverse the impact of the climate change. He said President Duterte has already appealed to developed countries to keep their commitment on reducing their carbon dioxide emissions to ease the climate crisis.
He also cautioned that the county’s islands run the risk of becoming underwater if climate change is not effectively addressed. He said the Philippines is among the nations susceptible to the hazards brought by climate change.
“Kung hindi po gagalaw ang buong daigdigan – kaya po tayo specially affected ng climate change – posible pong mawala ang ating mga land territories, maging permanently under water kung hindi po natin mari-reverse ang climate change. (If the world won’t act, we are specially affected by climate change, it is possible that our land territories will be gone, will be permanently under water if we do not reverse climate change),” he said.
“Kahit gaano kagaling ang DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), kahit gaano kagaling ang NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), habang hindi natin nasusolusyunan itong climate change, eh baka mabura pa ang ating teritoryo (Even if the DENR, NDRRMC perform well, our territory might be wiped out if we don’t find a solution to climate change)” he said.
Typhoon Ulysses triggered floods and landslides in Cagayan and other parts of Luzon, killing more than 60 people, displacing thousands of families, and destroying billions worth of crops and infrastructure. Some local government units have reportedly complained that the flooding has been aggravated by the ill-timed release of water from nearby dams.
President Duterte, however, has justified the release of excess water from the reservoirs, saying it was necessary to prevent a catastrophe.
On reports that some local authorities might sue dam operators, Roque said they may pursue it “if they have a cause of action.” Roque however expressed doubts that such lawsuit would prosper.
In the case of Magat Dam, Roque said water release from the reservoir was just among the reasons for the flashfloods in Cagayan Valley.
“Number one, it really is a valley ‘no so talagang ang tubig po papunta diyan and a scientific study has already concluded na ang primary reason for these flash floods – deforestation, illegal mining and the contour of the river itself plus the fact that it has to be dredged,” he said.
“So if they file suit baka hindi rin po sila maging successful dahil you have to prove that the dam was the proximate cause,” he added.