Dagupan City (29 January) -- Destructive flashfloods like what hit eastern Pangasinan last October could have been avoided had the San Roque dam gradually released excess waters at the 280-meter level, the chief of flood control unit of the public works and highways told newsmen Wednesday.
In a briefing for Pangasinan newsmen at the Chowking restaurant in barangay Carmen, Rosales after President Macapagal-Arroyo inspected the newly-restored Agno river dike in that barangay, Project Director Philip Menez said the sudden release of more than 5,000 cubic meters per second (cms) at the height of typhoon Pepeng caused the river to swell rapidly and thus destroyed houses, facilities and infrastructures in most areas of eastern Pangasinan including the newly-opened SM City Rosales.
Menez, who briefed the President on Wednesday afternoon when she flew to Rosales to check on the status of the dike repair works, stressed that the dikes could only withstand up to 2,600 cms as designed. "Dapat don, nakaopen na yong spillway gates ng dam sa 280 meters para gradual yong paglabas ng tubig at kayang kayang yon ng ating mga dike, siguro mga 500 to 1600 cms lang," he told a group of newsmen who covered the presidential visit.
Former Agno River Flood control system project director Fidel Ginez, whose office and personal properties were badly affected by the flashfloods, agreed saying the dam operators should not have waited too long for the waters to rise rapidly at the dam and then suddenly release waters downstream.
Menez, who is overall supervisor for flood control projects in the country outside of Metro Manila, said that water from the dam should already be free flowing downstream as the level reaches 280 meters above sea level. "Ang kaso nilagyan nila ng gates at puede nilang paabutin ang water level sa 290," he noted.
He pointed out that power generation needs are already met for the whole year when the water level reaches the 280 mark during the rainy season. "E gusto nila maipon lahat ng tubig kung maari lang," he lamented, describing such stance as "greediness" on the part of the operators.
The government spent some P70 million for the repair of the damaged sections of the Agno river dike as well as that of other river tributaries.
The President directed Menez to complete all restoration works by February 14 including the unfinished portion in Alcala town under the Phase II Agno river rehabilitation project. The flood control engineer later told newsmen he could meet the deadline.
Phase III is still being discussed with policy makers and lending institutions. At least P3 billion is needed for the project.
Menez urged local government units to facilitate resolution of right of way issues particularly in the area visited by the President so that discussions and approval at the Regional Development Council level would be fast tracked. (PIA Pangasinan)