Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bulacan board vowed to pass dam safety ordinance

MALOLOS CITY— The Sangguniang Panglalawigan of Bulacan vowed to pass a land mark ordinance on dam safety in an attempt to protect millions of residents and hold dam operators accountable.

This came as similar law linger in Congress since November 2011 and still to be acted upon by lawmakers who are beleaguered by the pork barrel scam.

Vice-Governor Daniel Fernando said that until a law is ratified, Bulakenyos are not protected by misoperation of dams and no one will be held accountable.

“We will pass an ordinance on dam safety that will help identify specific guidelines in dam operations, and accountable persons in case of misoperation,” he said in vernacular during a regular session of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan of Bulacan.

Fernando said that once ratified the ordinance will serve as basis on holding dam operators responsible.

The same was echoed by Board Member Felix Ople, the chair of the Environment Committee of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan.

He said that in 2011, the provincial government led by Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado warn to file a class suit against officials of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) which manages the Angat Dam.

This is due to severe flooding that Bulacan suffered after typhoons Pedring and Quiel barreled through the province in September and October that year.

However, warning of Alvarado did come through.

Ople said that in the future, the planned dam safety ordinance with provincial government an artillery in running after accountable persons.

Some members of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan expressed concerned if a provincial ordinance will be taken seriously by national agencies operating dams in the province.

They cited concerns on jurisdiction, but Board Member Ernesto Sulit, they have to try.

Other said that in the absence of a national law governing dam operations, a provincial ordinance will be enough.

Earlier, Engineer Roderick Dela Cruz, a dam safety expert based in the United States stressed in his presentation before the Sangguniang Panglalawiga the importance of dam safety legislation.

He said that while there is House Bill filed in Congress on dam safety, a parallel ordinance can be enacted because it takes a while before Congress ratify a law.

Dela Cruz expressed concern on the imminence of another calamity in the province noting that local dams like the Angat, Ipo and Bustos are under designed.

As lead dam safety engineer of the Southern California Edison who manages 82 dams, Dela Cruz said dams are considered as dangerous installations.

He said in constructing dams, it must be designed to withstand a 1,000 to 10,000 years storm.

“Apparently, Angat Dam and other dams in Bulacan are not designed for a 1,000 year storm,” he said.

Dela Cruz cited repeated release of water from Angat Dams even when there is not storm.

He said, “monsoon rain pa lang, wala pang bagyo nagpapatapon na ng tubig.”

Dela Cruz also scored the absence of funds prepared by dam operators in the country  for regular maintenance, monitoring and management of dam structures.

He said that in the United States, state and federal governments have required dam operators to finance similar activities.  Dino Balabo

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