of typhoons and dams

sept 27 sunday, around two o’clock in the afternoon, dzmm teleradyo

tail end of a live presscon of gma and gibo and the national disaster coordinating council (ndcc) trying their darndest to appear like they have been and continue to be on top of the situation, doing the best that can be done given the unexpected unprecedented unbearable volume of rainfall that ondoy brought.

dost director graciano yumol was in the middle of a hardsell that typhoon ondoy was in many ways different from hurricane katrina.   among other things, he gave the impression that the ndcc was prepared for, having seen, that huge flood coming.    say niya, “…early in the afternoon we were already telling them to evacuate…”    at noong hurricane katrina daw, ang response time ng u.s. government was two days.   ang ndcc?    “first thing in the morning ndcc was on the scene.   that’s how quick ndcc responded…”

yeah, right.

3:45 p.m.  gibo was back for another presscon.   caught him saying that the news of ondoy coming was duly reported in the papers.   we were warned.   but of course daw there was no predicting so much rain pouring down steadily for hours on end.   on top of that, september has been a rainy month, 4 weather disturbances daw before ondoy, kaya saturated na ang lupa and could not absorb any more of the rainwater.

gibo should have gone on to talk about the dams, angat and ipo in bulacan, and la mesa in quezon city.   instead government has been avoiding the question and would have us believe that no water was released, the dams were not full from the same september rains.

flashback to 13 september 09

about angat dam in particular, but which could apply to ipo and la mesa dams as well in terms of how full of water they were:

Angat Dam nearing spill level

MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – Water elevation at the giant Angat Dam is about to reach its spilling level of 210 meters as rains continue in Central Luzon, and local officials fear that it might break if pressure mounts.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) yesterday afternoon raised public storm warning signal no. 1 in nine provinces in northern Luzon with the arrival of tropical depression “Nando.”

. . . Records from the Provincial Disaster Management Office (PDMO) obtained by The STAR showed that water elevation at the Angat Dam climbed to 209.65 meters as of 8 a.m. yesterday.

Officials said the steady rise of water elevation at the giant water reservoir that supplies 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water requirements is caused by constant rainfall over the past weeks.

On Sept. 1, PDMO records showed that water elevation was only 204.89 meters.

High water elevation at the dam means enough water for Metro Manila but the continued rains might breach the dam’s spilling level that would require the release of water to ease pressure on the dikes.

In the past, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) managing the Angat Dam watershed usually released water from the dam through the Angat River when water elevation breached its spilling level of 210 meters.

Bulacan officials have demanded that the rehabilitation of the aging Angat Dam be prioritized over the proposed multibillion-dollar construction of Laiban Dam in Rizal.

Without repair, they said the 41-year-old Angat Dam poses danger to millions of residents of Bulacan and neighboring provinces, citing documents from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) that the dam is sitting on a geological fault line and has already developed cracks.

forward to september 14

about angat dam’s condition, more than 40 years after it was built and commissioned.

No Cracks in Angat Dam

MANILA – The Angat Dam management assured the public that the dam does not have any cracks, dispelling the feared disaster that could happen if the dam crumbles.

During a survey of the Angat Dam in Bulacan on Sunday, local officials and the dam’s management showed some media members that the dam is safe.

The survey of the area, which took almost one hour, did not see signs that there is danger in the area.

“Sabi ng MWSS [Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System]… normal na merong seepage… pero walang crack,” said Neri Amparo, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense-Region 3.

Authorities have also pointed at the seepage from which the water is released from the dam.

But the Angat Dam management maintained that the seepage is normal in dams that are made of earth and rockfill. They also believe that the dam will last long.

“Kaya pang tumagal nito ng 50 years, except kung magkaroon ng earthquake,” remarked Romualdo Beltran of the dam’s reservoir and management division, National Power Corp. (NPC).

Downplayed fears

On Saturday, the Sagip Sierra Madra Environmental Society expressed alarm that continuous rains could aggravate the reported seepage in the Angat Dam as a portion of the dam is located on the Marikina West Valley Fault Line.

The environmental group members feared the possibility of an earthquake that could cause the dam’s destruction and lead to a flashflood.

They noted that if the seepage expands, water will forcibly be released from the dam.

This could submerge 11 towns in water, namely Norzagaray, Angat, Bustos, San Rafael, Baliuag, Plaridel, Malolos, Calumpit, Paombong and Hagonoy in Bulacan, and Masantol in Pampanga.

In addition, the reported cracks in the dam pose a threat to the water supply in Metro Manila as 97 percent of its water supply comes from the dam.

The Angat Dam management, however, downplayed such fears.

NPC plant manager Rodolfo German said: “Matagal ng isyu yan… ginagawan nila ng dam remediation.”

“Nagkaroon ng 2 major earthquakes… wala kaming nakikitang signs na nag-deteriorate ang dam structure natin,” noted Jose Dorado, principal engineer from the MWSS.

Despite the continuous rains, the management said it is not yet time to release water from the dam because the water level is still safe. –

forward to sept 25 and ondoy

it rained all night and most of the next day.    all three dams must have been spilling water after all that rain.   by noon there may have been great fear that the structures (angat, at least) would give way under the immense pressure and release the water in one humongous wave.   infinitely safer to release the water little by little, sort of.   and so it happened.

The Bulacan Provincial Disaster Management Office (PDMO) reported the Angat dam commenced spilling operations at about 1 p.m. on Saturday with the initial opening of its radial gate, releasing one cubic meter of water every 30 minutes until total outflows reached 500 cubic meters per second.

The state media said reports from the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Management Office (PDMO) showed that hardest hit by the raging floods were the towns of Marilao, where waters rose to as high as 9 feet; Bustos, 7 feet, and Bocaue, 5 feet.

Gov. Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan said the flooding, the worst to hit the province since October 1978, was compounded by the release of water from the overflowing Angat dam and Ipo dam in Norzagaray town.

i have no idea, there are no similar reports, about how much later, or sooner, water was released from the ipo and the la mesa dams.   i suspect it all happened that saturday afternoon, around the time when the water started rising swiftly and inexorably,and reaching places never before touched by flood waters.

. . .  Valenzuela Rep. Magtangol “Magi” Gunigundo blamed the inefficient handling of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), local government units (LGUs) and officials of the La Mesa Dam for the worst flood that hit Metro Manila.

“The Metro Manila calamity was aggravated by poor coordination of MMDA, PAGASA, LGUs and La Mesa Dam authorities. No effective dissemination of information on rainfall, no warning by La Mesa Dam authorities on their decision to release impounded water. Delayed MMDA and LGUs response,” an irate Gunigundo said in an interview.

what were they thinking?    that all that additional water would drain directly out to the manila bay?   nakalimutan nila, o hindi nila alam, that rivers along the way are all silted up because of land erosion, thanks to deforestation, and esteros are all clogged up with nonbiodegradable plastic  trash, thanks to an mmda that’s apparently given up on the garbage problem?   no wonder kung saan-saan nakarating ang baha.

of course it’s quite possible that government officials just didn’t want to cause panic.   imagine the hysteria, and the horrendous traffic once people started evacuating.   but, hey, in such a crisis a good leader should have no trouble addressing the people, explaining the situation, allaying fears, offering advice, and mobilizing the media and the internet to assist and facilitate.

anc’s pia hontiveros is so right to ask, bakit walang warning?    maybe authorities were correct to release the water in controlled increments,  maybe it was the lesser evil.   but but but the public should have been seriously warned.   the people deserve to be given adequate information on matters that affect their lives so that they can make the right decisions, that is, whether to stay and brave the elements, in which case, walang sisihan!   or whether to go and seek higher ground while there’s time, with at least some possessions and their dignity intact.

meanwhile, let’s pray really hard that typhoon peping pepeng changes course.


  1. but but but the public should have been seriously warned… or whether to go and seek higher ground while there’s time, with at least some possessions and their dignity intact.

    Fully agree. I was really fuming over the non-advisory of the dam release(s), that I remember was always done with public warnings in the past.

    May I add, “and their lives intact”. Ang daming pinatay ng inefficiency ng mga gov’t agencies na yan, particularly their decision not to warn of the dam release.

    Maybe I’m wrong but I suspect that they were so unprepared that they were forced to actually release the dam water in one big spill instead of the claimed increments.

  2. Let’s say that the critical level is 210 meters, does it mean that they only release water when that level is reached? A more PROACTIVE plan is to release water when a typhoon is approaching taking into account the projected rainfall and to coordinate the timing of the release with the other dams. That way the rivers could still accommodate the water release while the typhoon is still far away. When the typhoon makes landfall you now have buffer space in the dams.

    If the “Engineers” in charge of the dams haven’t thought of that proactive plan all these years then they should just be replaced for plain incompetence.

  3. The story about Typhoon and Dams, is totally correct. Just common sense, where did all the deluged of water came from???? Filipinos will have to think now, that electing President of the Philippines is never a joke. More worse flooding disaster ( God Forbid ) will happen if people will still treat this Ondoy”s(Signal No.1,only in Metro Manila) and Dams water released episode is forgotten. Action now to punish the people responsible should be done and corrective actions ,to prevent such flooding should be taken immediately. This is Economic Sabotage ( Php 2.4 Billion damaged and 246 people or more DIED!!!!!!!). Noynoy and Mar should help the Filipino People NOW !!!!!!

  4. I am from Sta. Clara, Sta. Maria, Bulacan… and have always been confident that our town is not flood prone compared to other coastal municipalities of Bulacan. But last Saturday has submerged our homes. And the water came in fast and furious catching the residents offguard. Releases from Angat Dam in previous years did not inundate our town. But releasing water from Angat Dam and Ipo Dam at the height of heavy rainfall (when they could have done so before the rains started) is something our river tributaries could not handle.

    While we know that we are in a better situation than many of our kababayans from Marikina and Pasig, the destruction to our homes and businesses could have been avoided had these #%^$##@$%% Dam(ned) officials been more competent.

    They need to be held accountable.

  5. sapphire5

    well i doubt that the media would be releasing such a “blasphemous” statement against the government… most probably kasi wala pa investigation and don’t want more people against gov’t… sa totoo nga ang galing nga ng meralco (or whoever supplied the power).. Nung umaga palang nawala na kuryente, as if in expectation of the dam(n) floods…

  6. Die_hard NoyPi

    this is the first time in 25 yrs that we have experienced such above waist deep water which inundated our house in las pinas city village. my daughter who just graduated in March from Ateneo decided to invest her graduation gifts in the business of designer clothes. The first shipment of such clohes were delivered from abroad the day before the deluge came and all her investments literally sunk in water like the Super Ferry boat. Fortunately, they were wrapped in plastic bags sealed in boxes and not damage.

    I think it is correct to conclude that these dam(ned) officials should be investigated and thoroughly skinned to hold them responsible for this instant rivers and lakes surprising the people living in the low areas of the city.

  7. ortigas de castro

    Imagine a basin. To the north, the mountainous San Mateo, Rodriguez (with landfill areas) and the Angat River with tributaries gathering water from the Sierra Madre. To the east, the slopes of Antipolo and the mountains of Quezon. To the west, Marikina River. To the south, Laguna de Bay and the Manggahan Floodway with embankments and a cavernous drainage canal underneath de castro avenue with no locks and therefore susceptible to backflow. The Floodway connects to Manila Bay and therefore at the mercy of the tide level.

    Imagine dams inside this basin – in fact a system of dams with aqueducts: Angat, Ipo, Wawa and La Mesa.

    Imagine the water levels of the dams before and during storms. Those damns never release water even under threat of failure? I would think that surreptitious release of water during storms conveniently avoids controversy.

    Based on Pagasa measurements, imagine how much rainfall accumulated in the basin. What is the egress rate and how much water is needed to flood this basin within hours? We have scientists who could calculate, right?

    We need not imagine what could happen. We have witnessed it.

    Now imagine if authorities do not care to find out how it happened.

  8. Dam(ned) officials need to be held accountable.

    Can we conduct a public investigation?

    Is there a foreign or local media group willing to investigate and feature what actually happened? Much like the show “Seconds From Disaster” where they thoroughly investigate and document the causes of catastrophes.

  9. We have resided in West Fairview for 13 years now and we never had a flood reach our gates. Those in Palmera Homes said they lived there for 23 years and never had a flood inside their houses. We have gone through several much stronger typhoons that lasted for nine straight days and never had a flood reach our doorsteps.

    Ondoy resulted in floodwaters that reached our Ivory Executive Homes single storey house rooftops. Two-storey Houses in North Fairview were submerged and people were on their rooftops. And this was Fairview which was higher in elevation than the city of Manila, except that it was in the vicinity of La Mesa Dam, the MWSS aqueduct, and the Tullahan River tributaries. Never did we expect that the floods would result in severe damage, resulting in our losing everything to flood waters. Appliances like LCD TVs, home theaters systems, household appliances, cameras, computers, laptops, etc. Clothes were damaged by muddied waters that left rust stains and looked dirty no matter how many times they were washed and bleached. We tried to save our photo albums but some of them were damaged especially black and white photographs of our childhood. Our cars were damaged and are still sitting in the car repair shops waiting for shipment of parts from abroad for computer boxes, fuse boxes, power steering, instrument panels, etc. Our houses did not have flood insurance. The saddest part of this is that this catastrophe should not have happened. I feel for those who lost family members who drowned in the flood and there were many of them down below our subdivision near the newly constructed Atherton Bridge.
    When the Dam authorities were interviewed on TV, their faces could not hide the guilt and anguish they were going through. They knew they were responsible for white collar mass murder. They did not need guns for this massacre, all they needed was an order. Some of them suffered nervous breakdowns but we are crying for justice, senators!

  10. Romeo Guzman

    All of this things should have been avoided. Why not try to take a very close look at our weather agency. Examine the persons heading the agency. Are they really qualified. There was an event when their Civil Engineer who approved buildings for the newly procured radar equipment were not within standards. Examine the contractors. That same engineer after inquiry into the PRC did not have a license. He is now in hiding or being kept by the agency.

    The said agency also had long promised to modernize its supercomputing facilities. Take a close look at the HPC project. The bid failed twice. Look closely at the specs for the computers if they are updated. It was found that this project was being awarded to a company, who was previously disqualified,and without any background in weather computing but is fully dependent on a foreign supplier. Again we are about to risk giving our lives to a foreign company that only cares to make profits.

    I hope this will be taken seriously or else I am sure more people will perish and destruction will still persist. The perpetrators will go unabated.