Aging Angat dam a “ticking time bomb” along West Valley fault line

By , on June 1, 2015

View of Angat Dam from San Lorenzo (Hilltop), Norzagaray, Bulacan.
View of Angat Dam from San Lorenzo (Hilltop), Norzagaray, Bulacan.

NORZAGARAY, Bulacan — Worse than being nuked — twice!

The much talked-about “Big One” or the powerful earthquake that could jolt parts of Luzon once the long dormant West Valley fault line moves could bring double whammy of disastrous proportions even to those who would survive the tremor, particularly those living at the National Capital Region.

This grim scenario is also expected to make the earthquake drills virtually useless and just end into naught once the feared “Big One” comes and trigger the collapse of the aging Angat dam, which is nestling along the West Valley fault line.

This cropped up after village chiefs from different parts of Bulacan, particularly along the towns included by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in their updated Atlas of the West Valley fault line, asked Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado on the earthquake issue.

“The destruction it will cause is unimaginable especially if the 47 years old Angat dam will collapse because not only the province of Bulacan will be wiped out but also big parts of Pampanga and Metro Manila,” the governor, who time and again has been calling the attention of national government since he was still a congressman, then a vice governor and now as the top provincial chief executive on the dangers that the aging dam is posing when it is jolted by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

Alvarado told the village chiefs from the towns of Norzagaray, San Jose Del Monte and Dona Remedios Trinidad, that even if residents of Metro Manila survived the “Big One” they will still face another dilemma of an equally “deadly” proportion.

“They will die of thirst and for a long time will have no supply of potable water,” the governor said, adding that it is also important for concerned agencies to seriously consider dangers being poised by Angat dam, whose main dike is over the fault line according to studies of experts.

Angat dam supplies 97 percent of the potable water needs of Metro Manila.

Without water, the governor said it is hard to imagine where residents of Metro Manila will get it once the source is destroyed.

He said that Angat dam is located on the highest slope of the mountains in eastern Bulacan.

He also said that it is hard to imagine how fast rampaging waters that could be 30 meters high will wipe out villages.

“If the dam breaks, will you still hide under the table? How can you escape a rampaging water whose speed is like a bullet and will bring big boulders and illegally cut logs?,” he said.

Alvarado said that unless the 47 years old Angat dam is immediately repaired and strengthened, it will always serve like the probervial “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the heads of Bulakenyos.

He said the people of Bulacan are once again appealing to the national government to send engineers and experts to prod the new owner of Angat dam to immediately start its rehabilitation.

Alvarado said that since Phivolcs renewed its confirmation that the West Valley fault is still active, it has again brought dilemmas on the people of Bulacan who have been crying out for the immediate repair of the dam for so long now, in fact since 2008.

Since 2009, when he was the Vice Governor and presiding officer of the Sanguniang Panglalawigan, Governor Alvarado has already been calling the attention of the national government of the delicate situation of the aging dam.

Calling it as a disaster waiting to happen, Alvarado said that it is not only the lives of the people of Metro Manila that is at stake but also the lives of the people of Bulacan.

Alvarado said that even during the administration of former President Corazon Aquino, the government has already initiated studies, with the help of Japan, for the rehabilitation of Angat dam.

He said that even in 1968, the very year its operation started, dam officials and engineering experts have already detected leakages and in August 1986, a landslide also occurred near the ex-batching plant site of the dam.

Alvarado added that even President Benigno S. Aquino III is very much concern on the structural integrity of the 47 years old dam that he appropriated Php5.7 billion for its immediate repair and strengthening but it got stalled after the Supreme Court ruled that the privatization of the Angat dam is legal after Korean Water (K-Water) found a Filipino business firm as its partner .

It is stipulated under the contract between the new operator of the dam and the government that K-Water will shoulder and initiate its rehabilitation and fortification which will be the first ever repair since Angat dam began operation on October 1968.

Alvarado said that it is high time for the government to prod the new owners to immediately start its rehabilitation and implement the studies of Tonkin and Taylor, the European dam experts company commissioned by the Philippine government to study and formulate the fortification of the dam.

“Up to now, they are still in the drawing board even if there is already a viable study by a credible company. We, in Bulacan, are asking concerned agencies to help the K-Water in making the structural integrity of Angat dam safe for the next 50 to 100 years,” Alvarado said.

While drills are being conducted, most residents here are faithfully relying on prayers.

“As we continue conducting drills, education campaign and formulate contingency plans, the people of Bulacan are still relying strongly in their faith to God and the power of prayers,” he added.