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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Establishment of a National Dam Safety Authority sought
Writer: Lorelei V. Castillo, MRS-PRIB
09 November 2011 09:23:53 AM

A lawmaker is strongly pushing for the early passage of a bill establishing the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) that will address all concerns pertaining to the operations of all dams in the country.

Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado (1st District, Bulacan), author of House Bill 5406, said the authority is tasked to control, manage and operate dams and institute a national dam safety program.

"It is time we have a single government agency that will manage and operate dams. This may be a reactionary move as a result of the recent flooding but this is also a pre-emptive and pro-active move to prevent recurrence of the problems our country experienced in the past," Sy-Alvarado said.

Sy-Alvarado said the tragic, destructive and costly experience of the Philippines in the past two years with floods arguably aggravated by the release of water from dams brought to attention the procedures, processes, systems and protocols observed or not observed by different agencies tasked to manage or operate dams in the country.

"There is no denying that dams are essential for development. Its importance for power generation, water supply for domestic use and irrigation is unquestionable. However, recent experience also point to the fact that it can also cause destruction and untold misery. The recent flooding in Bulacan and Pampanga and destruction to property has reached about P10 billion estimates, not to mention loss of lives," Sy-Alvarado said.

Sy-Alvarado said in the latest flooding in Central Luzon caused by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel, local government units point to the release of water from dams as the main cause of the flooding.

"While agencies tasked to manage and operate dams deny the accusation asserting that they followed dam protocols, certain sectors blame the lack of a national dam safety program and the observance of an outdated dam protocol for the problem. It is high time to end the blame game on dams for our people and the country cannot afford to keep on debating while the people continue to suffer," Sy-Alvarado said.

Under the measure to be known as the "Dam Safety Act of 2011," the NDSA shall have exclusive power to control, manage and operate all dams in the country in coordination with proper agencies.

The authority shall formulate a comprehensive and holistic national dam safety plan that is consistent with the declared principles of this Act which shall include provisions on early warning systems, consultation and coordination with all concerned agencies including the LGUs and private sector.

Sy-Alvarado said the authority shall integrate, prioritize and implement, whenever allowed and authorized by applicable laws, management and operation of dams.

The NDSA shall recommend to and call upon the proper agencies on the technical support, physical assistance and generally, the level of priority to be accorded to agricultural, industrial, commercial and infrastructure, environmental and technological programs and projects soliciting or requiring direct or indirect help from or through the national government or any of its instrumentalities.

Likewise, the authority shall explore sources for financing priority on the control, management and operations of dams. It shall hold mandatory consultations in times of calamities, typhoons and other disasters with all stakeholders and concerned agencies on the status of dams, including water levels and other information that are relevant to ensure the safety of the people.

It shall also conduct massive public information on their actions during emergency situations including issuance of early warning devices.