CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan – While thankful that the repair and strengthening of the nearly 50 years old Angat dam in the mountain town of Norzagaray is pushing through, Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado strongly urged engineers and contractors of the Angat Hydropower Corporation (AHC) to stop and desist from cutting trees at the watershed area of the aging rock-filled type dam.
The governor met with AHC engineers led by Russel Rigor and officials of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environment Society headed by Bro. Martin Francisco at the governor’s office Friday afternoon.
Alvarado said he was shocked and alarmed at the same time, when he was informed that some 924 trees, many of which were decades-old, have been cut down to give way to roads and heavy equipment leading to the repair site.
“I was glad when the repair and strengthening of the aging dam finally pushes thru. Many will remember that I have time and again called the attention of the national government that immediate fortification of the dam should be made after Philvolcs director Renato Solidum confirmed that the main dyke of the Angat dam nestles within the West Valley fault line. But I was deeply shocked when I was informed that hundreds of trees have been cut down,” Alvarado said.
He said that it is not only unlawful to cut trees at the watershed, a protected area, but this also poise danger to calamities that it may induced or trigger.
Engr. Rigor of the AHC have earlier told local newsmen that the National Power Corporation, the agency that has jurisdiction over watershed areas in the country, gave permission to cut 2,000 trees which will be replaced by 1 million saplings.
Alvarado said that it will take long years to replace the destroyed forest cover at the watershed of Angat dam.
“Actually, the decades-old trees are irreplaceable. In the first place not even a single tree should have been cut. Trees are also natural barriers against flashfloods. Saan na ngayon dadaloy ang tubig na hinihigop nila. Kapag umiiyak ang kagubatan tiyak na babaha sa kapatagan,” Alvarado said.
He said that Angat dam should be strengthened because the aging dam it does not only supply 96 percent of the potable water needs of Metro Manila but also supplies the irrigation of farmlands in Bulacan and Pampanga and generates electricity as well.
Francisco, of the environment watchdog Sagip Sierra Madre Environment Society, said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued the cutting permit but it was the Napocor that authorized the zoning of the area that will be quarried to hasten rehabilitation and strengthening works at the dam.
He added that the cutting of trees and quarrying operations at the watershed proceeded even if there was no Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the National Commission of Indegenous People of the Philippines, an important requirement because the aging dam and its watershed area is located within the ancestral domain of the Dumagats tribesmen.
He said that their group will join the Bulacan Environment and Natural Resources Office in monitoring the status of the repair and strengthening of the Angat dam as well as the protection of the forest cover at the watershed area. –EMIL G. GAMOS