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LOOK: Sunken Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija resurfaces after drought

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Apr 25, 2024 7:46 pm

An ancient town in Nueva Ecija has once again seen the light of day after it reemerged from underwater this April due to the effects of the dry season.

The Pantabangan town is a 300-year-old settlement in the province that was submerged in 1973 to pave the way for the construction of the Pantabangan Dam, which was authorized in 1966.

Under normal circumstances, the historic town cannot be seen as it is entirely underwater. However, since the Philippines is currently experiencing the El Niño phenomenon, resulting in rising temperatures, the water level in Pantabangan Dam was recorded at 173.40 meters, which is 3.6 meters below its low water level. 

According to Pantabangan's website detailing its history, after the surrounding areas near the dam were flooded with the new lake, all of the residents were effectively displaced.

Seven of its outlying barangays—Malbang, Villarica, Liberty, Cadaclan, San Juan, Napon-Napon, Marikit and Conversion—were then relocated to nearby places that later formed what is now known as the new Pantabangan town.

"They had to start their lives all over again in a place where the future is uncertain. They were left with no choice. Indeed, the Pantabangenos sacrificed so much in the interest of national economic growth," the website noted.

The present town now has 14 barangays and a total land area of about 41,735.314 hectares and has the distinction of being the only town in the Philippines that boasts three hydroelectric plants within its territory.

The Pantabangan Dam has since been regarded as the "cleanest in the country" and is claimed to be the second-largest dam in Asia. It is able to generate 112 megawatts of hydroelectric power, which helps supply the irrigation requirements of about 77,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Central Luzon.

Despite being centuries old, the town has only managed to resurface four times, with the first one in 1983 followed by instances in 2014 and 2020.

All of these happened during peak El Niño periods. March, April and May are typically the hottest and driest months in the archipelago but conditions this year have been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon.