Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a Senate Resolution seeking to determine the causes of the recent record-high flooding in Cagayan, Isabela and other areas in Luzon in the aftermath of Typhoon “Ulysses.”
De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 579 underscoring the need to identify and improve on the gaps in the government’s disaster preparedness and risk response.
“There is no lone cause for the record-level flooding experienced by Cagayan. There should be a thorough investigation into these issues that have surfaced in the wake of Cagayan’s worst flooding in recent memory in order to craft policies and develop innovative solutions that are data-driven and responsive to the needs of the people,” she said.
“There is likewise need to resolve the issue on responsibility for the mismanagement of the water levels in the Magat Dam to prevent similar incidents from happening again [and the] need to determine the effectiveness of the DENR programs to prevent illegal logging in Sierra Madre,” she added.
Last November 11, Typhoon “Ulysses” made its first landfall in Quezon Province and made its way across Central Luzon, with residents of Metro Manila, particularly Marikina City, caught flat-footed as the torrential downpour caused the Marikina River to swell to a record level of 22-meters.
Although not directly hit by Typhoon ‘Ulysses’, the province of Cagayan experienced heavy flooding as well due to constant rain brought by the tail end of a cold front.
On Nov. 13, the reservoir water level of Magat Dam had reportedly reached 192.64 meters above sea level (masl), almost reaching the dam’s spilling level of 193.00 masl. Reports noted that seven of the dam’s gates were already opened at 18 meters.
In filing the measure, De Lima said there are several possible culprits for the record-level flooding in Cagayan, such as the claim by National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesperson Mark Cashean Timbal, based on reports by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the region, that the successive landfall of seven typhoons in the country contributed to the massive flooding experienced in Cagayan province.
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba, for his part, claimed that the degradation of the forests in the Cordillera and Sierra Madre due to decades of illegal logging activities caused the massive flooding which had affected over 170,000 individuals in 26 municipalities across the province.
Meanwhile, think tank Infrawatch PH maintained that dam operators should be held accountable as dams, including Magat, only rushed to open the gates at the height of Typhoon Ulysses, thereby causing the sudden and unprecedented flooding in Cagayan.
De Lima said proper dam management protocols and effective mechanisms for data gathering and information dissemination are also critical components of disaster mitigation.
“The national government needs a comprehensive and people-centered environmental conservation and disaster risk reduction management plan incorporated into its national development policy in order to better prepare its citizens for future disasters to come,” she stressed.