'NIA, not Aboitiz, to blame for Cagayan Valley floods'

CAGAYAN VALLEY, Philippines – A Cagayan priest now plans to go after the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), after he initially studied the possibility of suing SN Aboitiz Power Group for the release of water from Magat Dam at the height of Typhoon Nona (Melor).

Nona's heavy rains caused the Magat Dam to breach its spilling level and forced the dam's operator to release water.

The release of water triggered floods and damaged crops in Cagayan, Isabela, and neighboring provinces.

Father Ranhilio Aquino, who is also the dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law, said his group will take legal action against NIA, instead of Aboitiz, because it is NIA which controls the release of water from Magat Dam.

"The necessary research has been done. SN Aboitiz made clear that NIA controlled water releases," Aquino said.

Last December 30, Aquino led a forum of environmental groups, priests, lawyers, and flood victims to discuss a lawsuit against those responsible for the floods.

An Aboitiz official who attended the forum explained that the company is not involved in the dam operations, including the release of water.

In an email to Rappler on December 23, 2015, SN Aboitiz Power-Magat Incorporated (SNAP Magat) also said it only owns and operates the 360-megawatt (MW) Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant located at the border of Ramon, Isabela, and Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.

"SNAP Magat only bought the hydroelectric power plant component which is the 360-MW hydro plant from government. It is not involved in dam operations, spilling, and flood control," SNAP Magat spokesperson Mike Hosillos said.

He added that NIA owns and operates the Magat Dam.

In Cagayan Valley, 6 people were reported dead, all in Nueva Vizcaya province, due to Typhoon Nona. They included children, aged 4 and 8, whose houses were buried by a landslide.

A report from Office of Civil Defense-Cagayan Valley chief Norma Talosig stated that floods in the region displaced almost 200,000 residents from the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino.

The partial damage to agriculture and fisheries was pegged at P579 million ($12.28 million), putting into waste almost 25% of the standing crop. – Rappler.com

$1=P47.15