Escudero to NIA, DOE: Require dam operators to get indemnity insurance for flood victims

October 5, 2011 10:06 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 5 — The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) should require all dam operators in the country to get indemnity insurance to cover victims of flooding caused or aggravated by the release of water from dams, Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero said on Wednesday.

The senator from Sorsogon made the suggestion after successive typhoons "Pedring" and "Quiel" wreaked havoc in Central Luzon last week, with the massive flooding aggravated by the unilateral release of water from San Roque and Angat dams, leaving casualties, thousands homeless and billions of pesos worth of properties damaged.

Escudero, who is the chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said DOE and NIA should now carefully study and consider making indemnity insurance mandatory for all public and private dam operators.

“Appropriate regulations for indemnification should be in place to ensure compensation for any actual losses due to flood brought about by dam water releases. And the imposition of mandatory indemnity insurance addresses this squarely,” he said.

The lawmaker added that the government may also come up with an insurance fund similar to the environmental guarantee fund, pursuant to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) or Republic Act No. 9136.

On the dam operators’ side, there should be an appropriate and viable insurance coverage from their corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund to cover the premium.

“Yes, the typhoons are force majeure that no one can control but the severity of downstream flood brought about by water withdrawals from these dams exacerbated the massive flooding that residents claim to be the worst in history,” Escudero explained.

In the congressional oversight committee hearing on climate change last Monday, lawmakers and environmental groups slammed government officials and dam operators for alleged lack of coordination and overlooking the severity of the situation at the height of the typhoons, saying this contributed to the devastation of Central Luzon.

“The miscalculation and vacillation from both parties greatly affected the response to the imminent dangers of the typhoon forecast. We know we are in the rainy season, whether we are looking at moderate or normal rainfall, both should already have made projections on the absorptive and storage capacities of the dams in case of heavy and strong rainfall. Is it appropriate to prioritize public safety first than maintaining a certain water level to generate water and supply irrigation?” Escudero asked.

He added that standard and codes of dam operations and its water release protocols should now be revisited, stressing that the government should now require all hydroelectric plants to have a contingency plan in cases of emergency like the construction of a cistern where excess water can be dumped. (PNA)

DCT/scs/jfm

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