"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, May 08, 2009

Reiterating need for modernization of PAGASA

The modernization of the country's weather forecasting system to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters was reiterated by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, noting that two typhoons (Dante and Emong) have already hit the country in just a week, said that it is imperative to have a modern weather forecasting and warning system because of the numerous natural disasters that hit the country every year.

In Senate Bill (SB) 2080, Gordon proposed the modernization of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), to improve the quality of weather forecasting in the country and to ensure its accuracy and timely dissemination to the people.

"Our country has experienced the occurrence of several natural disasters, some of them deadly, on which PAGASA may have failed to give correct and timely information due to lack of modern equipment," he said.

"As a result, citizens were not completely warned of dangers to their health and safety and apprised of precautions they could take to alleviate, if not prevent, damage to their person or property," he added.

At present, PAGASA issues severe weather forecasts every six hours. The automation of its data processing will allow the weather bureau to cut by half the time needed for coming up with warnings and updates.

During the onslaught of typhoon Frank last year, the MV Princess of the Stars capsized off Sibuyan Island in Romblon which killed more than 800 passengers and crew of the ship.

If it had the capability to issue bulletins every three hours, rather than six, PAGASA could have released a weather update showing the change in the typhoon's direction, thereby preventing the ship from departing.

"We must not wait for another tragedy of this kind to happen before we act. This early, we have been hit by typhoons one after another. We have to prepare for upcoming storms, and we must prepare well," Gordon said.

"The capacity of PAGASA to rapidly deliver accurate weather information is critical in determining our ability to properly prepare for and handle natural disasters," he added.

Under SB 2080, PAGASA shall adopt a four-pronged modernization program.

These are: (1) establishment of regional weather service centers in strategic areas across the country to broaden PAGASA's bases for delivery of services to each region; (2) modernization of physical resources and operational techniques through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, with emphasis on weather and flood monitoring and warning system and agro-meteorological observational system to strengthen services for agriculture; (3) intensification of human resources development to keep pace with rapid international scientific and technological advances; and (4) upgrade of research and development capability through a more rationalized and integrated approach, with focus on improvement of operations, as well as the development of specialized services for cost recovery.

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