Aboitiz firm denies its plants caused Sta. Cruz floods

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 February) — A top executive of the Aboitiz-owned Hedcor Inc. said their Sibulan hydropower plants could not have caused the floods that killed three persons in Darong, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur on January 17, saying they are operating run-of-river hydropower plants which do not impound water.

“Not only that we had nothing to do with the flood that hit Santa Cruz but more importantly, that we could not have caused that flood, either by accident or negligence,” said Hedcor president Rene Ronquillo as he showed reporters how a run-of-river hydropower plant works and its difference from big impounding dams like the Magat dam in Ramon, Isabela and the Binga dam in Barangay Binga, Itogon, Benguet.

“We are run of river, not impounding,” he said.  He added that people must have been thinking about dams as big as Magat and Binga dams in Luzon, which impound water and with “hundreds of hectares of (water) storage capacity on the side.”

“These dams, especially during typhoons, when the water reaches a certain level which goes beyond the dam’s capacity, have to release the water to protect themselves,” he said.

“Sometimes, (those who operate them) are accused of causing the floods downstream because they release the water, but you see, look at those gates,” he said, showing the pictures of the Magat dam’s gates during the presentation.

“Our dams don’t have those gates, because there’s nothing to release,” he said.

“The first thing we were asked was, did your dams release (water)? No, because we cannot store, we don’t have gates,” he said.

Ronquillo said the run-of-river weirs do not impound water, and that whatever excess water during floods only goes over the weirs.

“I hope you can see from these pictures that our weirs have no gates to release water and more than that, we cannot store water,” he said.

Ronquillo also said that their plants were not damaged and were in fact, operating at full capacity at the height of the flooding.

“Sorry, because it was a tragic event, but our generation actually peaked during that day,” he said, urging reporters to check the records of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

“I guess we became the suspects because our two (hydropower) plants were upstream,” he said.

“People had sent text messages asking if we released water from our dam,” said Ronquillo.  “No, because there was no dam at all.”

Ronquillo also cited the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) hydraulic report, showing that some 500 cubic meters per second of water passed by Sibulan River at the height of the floods.

He said  the company’s upstream Sibulan hydropower plant only diverts water at five cubic meters per second from Sibulan and Baroring rivers and that the downstream hydropower plant diverts water at 13 cubic meters per second.

“Granting that our system collapsed, the 13 cubic meters per second could not have caused the 500 cubic meters per second heavy flooding, but our system did not collapse,” he explained.

Ronquillo said the company normally would not have bothered to call for a press conference to explain their side but with three people killed in the recent flooding that hit Darong, Santa Cruz, and people suspecting them to have caused the floods, he said they felt the need to correct the inaccurate reports. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)