Gov. Daniel Fernando during the inspection of the damaged rubber Gate No. 5 of Bustos Dam in May 2020. NEWS CORE file photo

CITY OF MALOLOS—Officials call as alibi the claim of a local contractor of a COVID-19 lockdown anew in a province in China as what caused its China-based partner to again delay the replacement of the found defective rubber bladder gate of Bustos Dam or the Angat Afterbay Regulation Dam.

Gov. Daniel Fernando told residents during Thursday relief goods distributions in the town of Calumpit and City of Malolos that he do not believe in the claim of ITP Consortium, Inc., that Chinese experts from its partner-supplier firm Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau Co. Ltd. (GHCB) failed to arrive in the country on Nov. 18 as scheduled to replace Rubber Bladder Gate No. 5 of Bustos and to inspect the five other rubber gates of Bustos Dam due to another declared lockdown in Qingdao province.

He said such reason for the continuous delay is already something unbelievable.

“Hindi po ako naniniwala na dahil sa lockdown dala ng COVID-19 pandemic kaya po delay na naman ang pagdating ng mga Chinese dito para palitan na ang defective na rubber gate ng Bustos Dam natin. Tayo nga po ay hindi nagpe-face mask ngayon lalo sa open spaces na walang masyadong maraming ta,” Fernando told representatives of 5, 842 families-victims of flooding during recent typhoon Paeng who received the relief goods.

The governor said the previous delay in the works was due to COVID-19, but he said following today’s worldwide ease of health restrictions from the disease, there is no more reason for Rubber Gate. No. 5 not to be replaced with a brand new one and for the 5 other gates to be inspected if there is a need to be replaced. 

He also warned that the legal action of the provincial government against the ITP will proceed anytime as they continue to delay the replacement of Rubber Bladder Gate No. 5.

The Nov. 15 scheduled arrival of the Chinese expert from Guangxi Ltd. partner and supplier of ITP for Nov. 18 replacement of the rubber gate did not proceed due to the said new lockdown in China as claimed in a Nov. 4 letter submitted by ITP officials to Josephine Salazar, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Region 3 Director.

Salazar in a Nov. 14 letter to ITP warned its officials of legal actions they will take against them for the continuous delay in the alleged overdue works.

“With the present situation, we don’t want to put the community at risk, hence, you should act immediately on this matter. Taking into considerations all the issue you have raised, we have given your company enough time since the issuance of the final notice for the removal and replacement of all the rubber bladders last March 9, 2021”.

“Failure on your part to act on this matter, our agency will do all the legal actions necessary.   

ITP is behind the 2016 P1-B worth Bustos Dam rehabilitation project which primarily includes replacement of all its 6 old rubber gates after years of usage and operation. Salazarr said P80-Million were spent for the said six rubber gates while the other funds were used in the open canal works, gauge and all the rest of the infrastructure works in the dam.

Fernando said the replaced rubber gates which lasted for several decades are marked Bridgetone and costs P450-million while the works of ITP used China-made rubber gates worth P80-milion. 

On May 2020, Gate. No. 5 suddenly deflates on its own and had affected the dam operation. Bulacan officials then discovered defects in Rubber Bladder Gate No. 5 and since then had demanded for replacement including possible need for similar replacement of the five other rubber gates.   

Fernando also expressed frustration that the rubber gate manifested the defect in 2020 while the rehab project has yet to be fully completed or was just about 90% done.

He also expressed high concern of a major flash flood if all the rubber gates are sub-standards. Each of the six rubber gates discharges 500 cubic meter per second (cms) of water and if all the six gates are destroyed or damaged, it will burst a raging water volume of 3,000 cms while at only 700 cms, Fernando said the catch basin towns of Hagonoy and Calumpit are already submerged in flood water. 

The delay in the repair of the damaged rubber gate could also impact 15,706 hectares of rice and vegetable area with 12,904 farmers and with an estimated loss of P880,964,445 to P2,690,255,147 worth of agricultural damages.