By Freddie C. Velez
Malolos City, Bulacan — While thankful that the repair and strengthening of the nearly 50-year-old Angat dam is now underway, Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado has urged contractors of the Angat Hydropower Corporation (AHC) to refrain from cutting trees at the watershed area.
At a meeting with AHC engineers led by Russel Rigor and officials of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environment Society headed by Bro. Martin Francisco at the Capitol the other day, Alvarado was shocked that 924 trees had been cut to give way to heavy equipment working on the dam.
Pointing out that many of these trees were decades-old, he told the engineers to stop cutting trees at the watershed and reminded them that doing so unlawful.
“I was glad when the repair and strengthening of the aging dam finally pushed through…… but I was deeply shocked when I was informed that hundreds of trees have been cut down,” Alvarado said.
Engr. Rigor of the AHC said the National Power Corporation, the agency that has jurisdiction over watershed areas in the country, gave permission to cut 2,000 trees as it was necessary to undertake the structural repairs on the dam.
He assured that the agreement was for AHC to replace the trees with 1 million saplings.
Still, Alvarado said 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 flash floods. Saan na ngayon dadaloy ang tubig na hinihigop nila?”
Francisco 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 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.
He said that Angat dam should be strengthened because 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.
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 Indigenous People of the Philippines, an important requirement because the aging dam and its watershed area is located within the ancestral domain of the Dumagat tribesmen.