MANILA

Senate probe into Luzon flooding sought

CAGAYAN. In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, houses are surrounded by floodwaters brought about by Typhoon Ulysses inundate Cagayan Valley in northern Philippines on Sunday, November 15, 2020. (AP)

MINORITY Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hointiveros have expressed intention to conduct an investigation on the Luzon flooding following a series of weather disturbances that affected thousands of families.

Pangilinan, the former chairperson of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), said he is planning on filing a resolution seeking a Senate probe into the flooding that killed at least 24 people.

The investigation will be aimed to avoid similar incidents from happening again, he said.

"Naiwasan kaya ito kung na-control nang maayos ang pagbukas ng mga flood gates ng Magat Dam? Kung nabigyan ba ng sapat na warnings ang ating mga kababayan na tatamaan ng mga pagbaha?" Pangilinan said in a statement.

He said there were protocols in releasing water from the dams, noting that it should be well coordinated with concerned government agencies, particularly the local government unit and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Hontiveros, for her part, has filed Senate Resolution 571, calling for an investigation on the manmade causes of the severe flooding in Cagayan, Rizal and Marikina City in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses.

She said it has an end view of institutionalizing sustainable and inter-generational measures against flooding and typhoon-related damage.

Hontiveros said logging and land-grabbing in the Upper Marikina Watershed and Sierra Madre mountain range could have been a factor, citing the information from the Masungi Geoserve.

“Alin dito ang talagang kasalanan natin? We need to know the answers immediately before the next typhoon hits. Natural calamities are beyond our control and can be unpredictable, but there are causes to the historic devastation of Typhoon Ulysses that could have been addressed,” she said in a separate statement.

“We are not new to natural disasters. Paulit-ulit ang kwento. Napapagod at nagagalit ang taumbayan, and rightly so. Let’s find out what is really causing this vicious cycle, and change the story once and for all,” she added.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is in favor of transferring the control on the opening of gates of water dams to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

But he said it is only when there are typhoons, adding it would still be under the NIA during normal days.

"Ako ay sang-ayon diyan kasi kami parating pa lang 'yung bagyo, puwede na naming sabihing mag-release na kayo ng tubig unti-unti... However, ito kasing Magat ay also a hydroelectric power plant, ngayon ang nagpapatakbo diyan ng kanilang generator is water," said Lorenzana, who also chairs the NDRRMC.

"Kung mababa ang tubig, 'yung generator sa taas di na tatakbo 'yun, maapektuhan 'yung kanilang power generation at revenues. Sa tingin ko naman, I think compared to lost revenue and lost lives, doon ako. Kakampihan ko 'yung lost lives," he added.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año made such remarks earlier, noting that releasing water on dams can be made even before a typhoon strikes.

Thousands of families were displaced, particularly in Cagayan, after their houses sank following the release of water from the Magat Dam.

In its latest report, the NDRRMC said a total of 727,738 families or 3,052,049 individuals in 5,594 barangays in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol Region, National Capital Region and Cordillera Administrative Region were affected by Typhoon Ulysses.

It said the number of fatalities went up to 73 and 19 others remained missing.

The NDRRMC said an estimate of P2,715,299,906 worth of agriculture and P5,256,272,751.28 worth of infrastructure were incurred in the affected areas.

A total of 39,808 houses were also damaged, it added.

On Monday, November 16, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go said President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the proposal to augment the calamity response fund of the hard-hit areas.

Go has earlier proposed the creation of a special task force to ensure the immediate recovery and rehabilitation of the areas affected by Typhoon Rolly, which struck the Bicol region a week before Typhoon Ulysses wrecked the country.

He said it includes the provision of additional local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund equivalent to one percent of their respective Internal Revenue Allotments particularly in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and the Bicol region.

"Inaprubahan na rin ni Pangulong Duterte ‘yung direktiba na inapela ko noong mga nakaraang linggo -- iyong ubos na ang calamity fund ng mga apektadong LGUs dahil sa pandemya," Go said during a relief distribution in Marikina City on Monday.

"Magbibigay ng one percent of the IRA ang national government para makatulong kaagad sa mga tinamaan ng bagyo," he added. (SunStar Philippines)


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