(A Reprint from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. on Saturday asked the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to increase the volume of water that is being released from the San Roque Dam in San Manuel town to keep the dam’s elevation below its spilling level of 280 meters above sea level (masl).
Espino said he issued the appeal so the dam will have more space to hold rainwater and excess water from the Binga Dam in Benguet that would be flowing into the reservoir in the coming days.
“We are worried because if it continues raining and because we can no longer accurately predict the weather due to climate change, they might have to abruptly open again the spillway gates and we will again experience what happened in 2009,” Espino said.
The dam was blamed for the massive flooding in Pangasinan in 2009 that submerged 38 towns and cities and ravaged some P4 billion worth of crops, fish, roads, bridges and dikes after San Roque operators opened all of the dam’s spillway gates when it was about to reach its full capacity.
On Friday, Napocor was releasing water at 330 cubic meters per second (cms) through one spillway gate. But at noon on Saturday, two more gates were opened releasing water at 419 cms. The dam’s water elevation was 282.73 masl, still above its spilling level of 280 masl.
But Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono, said the dam’s outflow was very low compared to its inflow of 594 cms.
So was one of the business owners in Rosales town who sued Napocor and the San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC) after his property was submerged by floods in 2009.
A group of lawyers in the province also filed a class suit against Napocor and SRPC.
“The outflow should be equal to its outflow so the dam’s water level will not get high,” So said.
He said the Agno River can absorb about 1,200 cms and increasing the outflow to 800 cms will not damage the earth dikes along the river.
Espino said Napocor continued to defy a water discharge protocol that the provincial government, Napocor and SRPC agreed on after the 2009 flooding.
“They are not following the protocol. What we agreed on was that if it reaches 276 masl, they should already release water to keep the level at 276 masl and for the rivers to absorb water,” Espino said.
He said a stretch of the Agno River from from San Manuel to Bayambang towns has not been dredged and an abrupt release of water, like in 2009, will cause the river to overflow.
At 4 a.m. on Saturday, the Agno River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center in Rosales town raised its flood alarm level in villages along the Agno River because of the inflow of water from the river’s tributaries and the release of water from the San Roque Dam.