Press Release
June 25, 2011

Legarda Calls for Effective Early Warning Systems for Dam Water Release

Senator Loren Legarda today warned local government officials and government agencies to maintain strict vigilance as heavy rains continue to pour, leading to the overflowing of several dams and rivers in the country.

Legarda cited a report from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) that the recent heavy rains were 14 times higher than the daily average recorded every June of the previous years.

The incessant rains had led to the overflow of Tullahan and Marikina rivers as well as the La Mesa, Ipo, Binga and Ambuklao dams reaching their spilling level.

As a result, thousands of families in affected areas were brought to different evacuation centers. Latest reports show that over 69,000 families in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Bicol Region were affected by Typhoon Falcon. In Marikina alone, at least 25,000 residents near the Marikina River were evacuated.

"We should be reminded of what happened during Pepeng, when waters from the San Roque Dam were unduly released in the middle of the night. The dam operators, local and government officials must be vigilant in monitoring the situation round-the-clock, ensure that the proper protocols are followed, employ their early warning systems and guarantee the safety of our citizenry as they are evacuated to safety," the Senator stressed.

"Our experiences with Ondoy, Pepeng and Basyang exposed the country's lack of an effective weather forecasting and early warning communications systems. They are either underutilized or outdated or inadequate to effectively predict typhoons, determine their intensity, and communicate warning to everyone exposed to these hazards," she added.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Regional Champion for Asia-Pacific explained that the critical gaps in operational, scientific and institutional capacity can lead to increasing the vulnerability of the poorest sectors--those living in high-risk areas and whose livelihoods are at the mercy of extreme weather events.

Legarda recounted that in 2009, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, which she chairs, conducted a series of public hearings after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng. A matter of discussion in these hearings was dam operations as waters were released based on outdated protocols, flooding several provinces in Luzon.

"I renew my call to the Department of Energy and the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) to review their planning and operations in light of the science available and to ensure that extreme weather events are taken into consideration in the process. Learning from our experience two years ago, have the dam operators updated their water release protocols? Our hydropower systems must be climate-resilient, which entails measures for improved management of our dams linked to reliable weather forecasts and effective early warning systems for communities at risk of floods due to dam water releases," she stressed.

"As dams reach spilling levels due to heavy rains, it must be ensured by the operators that they do not indiscriminately release dam waters, that the warnings reach the communities that will be affected and that the alerts allow them to respond ahead of time. Meanwhile, our local governments must make sure that flood warnings are heeded by the communities," Legarda concluded.

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