Not all Pangasinan officials support call for decommissioning of San Roque Dam

October 24, 2009 11:27 pm 

By Leonardo V. Micua

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Oct. 25 — Not all officials of Pangasinan subscribe to the drastic call for the decommissioning of San Roque Multipurpose Dam Project (SRMDP) in San Manuel town, a proposal that emerged when emotions were still high due to the flood that occurred in 34 towns and three cities of the province.

Leading those opposing the proposal for the decommissioning of at least the power generation component of the dam is Mayor Reynaldo Velasco of Sta, Barbara town, who in a breakfast forum “Engkwentro sa Lenox” last week, cautioned his fellow mayors to go slow in seeking the decommissioning of the San Roque Dam.

The proposal was made by Urdaneta City Mayor Amadeo Perez Jr. during a meeting called by Governor Amado Espino Jr. in Lingayen, attended by most of the mayors of Pangasinan whose towns were badly devastated by the flood.

Perez, who has been mayor for seven terms and congressman of the fifth district of Pangasinan for three terms, said the threat posed by the dam will always remain even after all the damages caused by the flood shall have been rehabilitated or reconstructed or even when a new President of the Philippines is elected.

The people of Pangasinan, especially those near the Agno River, will only have peace of mind if the San Roque Dam’s power generation component, which is a feature that needs a huge volume of water to operate, will be removed, Perez said.

Noting that San Roque Dam is located near two earthquake faults — the San Manuel Fault and the Digdig Fault in Nueva Ecija — Perez painted a dreadful scenario if the dam breaks up when a high-magnitude earthquake strikes.

The whole province of Pangasinan might be obliterated from the map and that the highest level of flood in Urdaneta City alone is projected to be as high as a 10- storey building and up to three-storey high in Dagupan City, Binmaley and Lingayen, he added.

But all these were downplayed by Mayor Velasco, a retired police director general, saying the knee-jerk reaction is unfounded.

The much composed Velasco called on his fellow mayors to go slow in their action because the real culprit for the massive flood in the province was the unusual heavy rains owing to climate change.

Velasco, who is the executive vice president of the Pangasinan Mayors' League, said the people must look at the bigger picture about the dam instead of immediately seeking its closure, because the project, which was constructed at multibillion pesos on build-operate transfer scheme, is benefiting the whole nation.

Believing that the decommissioning of the facility is not the solution to the problem of flooding in Pangasinan, Velasco urged that the proposal be put to a very careful study weighing all the consequences so the people need not regret in the long run.

"Let us look for the solution (to the flooding) and at the bigger picture on what the dam is giving," Velasco stressed as he speculated the possible legal implication that may ensue since the international consortium that built the project will not just let this matter to happen.

The San Roque Dam, reputed to be the highest rock-fill dam all over Southeast Asia and the second highest in Asia, was built during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos by an international consortium led by Marubeni Corp. of Japan, and which also included Ital-Thai and other multinational companies.

On the other hand, Mayor Kimi Cojuangco of Sison clarified she is not against the San Roque Dam but only against the people in charge of operating it who ought to be vigilant in controlling the release of water during heavy rains. <p<The wife of Congressman Mark Cojuangco of the fifth district of Pangasinan said that all what the people manning San Roque must do is to follow a certain protocol, so flooding can be avoided.

Elaborating on her position on the matter, Mayor Cojuangco said that the project is generating close to 400 megawatts of power and therefore is very useful aside from being cheap as compared to the energy being generated by other power plants.

Like Velasco, Cojuangco does not believe that the big flood that hit Pangasinan was caused by the release of water from the San Roque Dam alone but mainly to heavy rains on account of the climate change.

She blamed the flood that inundated her hometown Sison to the big volume of water that came from the mountains that caused the Bued River to overflow its banks and destroyed 1,500 meters of a 10-year-old flood control project.

Also destroyed in Sison was the Agat Bridge spanning across the Bued River and linking the province of Pangasinan to La Union.

Meantime, she urged her fellow mayors to be open-minded and be more modern when she said "let us realize that so many countries of the world have nuclear power plants and we have a a sturdy, ready plant in Bataan that can supply 1,200 megawatts for Luzon."

She was referring to the moth-balled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant built by Westinghouse during the Marcos regime which, she said, can be put to use so the country will have sufficient energy supply.

Meantime, Dagupan City Administrator Alvin Fernandez said the San Roque Dam must be maintained because it has several uses aside from generating electricity for the Luzon Grid.

The dam catches big volume of water from upstream of the Agno River where two smaller hydroelectric dams are located, but its irrigation component is yet to be installed.

Fernandez said during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) forum in Dagupan that the unmitigated release of water at the height of typhoon Pepeng showed lapses on the part of those who are manning San Roque but not on the structure.

Also blaming climate change as the culprit behind the flood in Dagupan, Fernandez sees the San Roque Dam as possible source of potable water for Dagupan City when all its water pumping stations dry up or affected by salt water intrusion due to the deepening problem of global warming.

On the other hand, the provincial board led by Vice Governor Marlyn Primicias-Agabas said they will also gather a consensus among themselves and will conduct public hearings on the proposal seeking the decommissioning of at least the power component of San Roque Dam. (PNA)

scs/Lvm/rma

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