PAGASA Gets Support from Private Sector
“To provide protection against natural calamities and utilize scientific knowledge
as an effective instrument to insure the safety, well-being and economic security
of all the people, and for promotion of national progress.”
This mandate reflects the important role of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical
and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
“PAGASA is a key agency in terms of disaster preparedness, as illustrated during
typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng,” says Butch Meily, executive director
of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF).
The PDRF is working in partnership with PAGASA to strengthen the country’s capacity
for disaster risk reduction and management via an effective early warning system.
Co-location of rain gauges in cell sites
Set to roll this April is a groundbreaking project on installing PAGASA rain gauges
in strategically located cell sites of cellular companies nationwide.
“MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) met with us to ask about PAGASA’s needs, as well as limitations
and deficiencies in terms of equipment. He wanted to know what things we could immediately
undertake. Co-locating the rain gauges in the cell sites was one of them,” says
Dr. Prisco Nilo, PAGASA Director.
Pangilinan also heads PDRF, the private sector arm of the Special National Public
Reconstruction Commission created in the wake of the devastation brought about by
typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Frank.
Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART), Globe Telecom, and Sun Cellular have all agreed
to participate in the co-location project that is part of PDRF’s program to help
upgrade the country’s weather and flood forecasting system.
“PDRF adopts an industry-wide approach in its undertakings. Hence, it was important
for us to include everybody,” says Meily.
Upon the instruction of Pangilinan, SMART Public Affairs head Ramon R. Isberto arranged
a meeting between the three telcos and Director Nilo.
“I have to give credit to everybody involved – Ernest Cu of Globe Telecom, Bill
Pamintuan of Sun Cellular and Mon Isberto of SMART. They all came together and agreed
that this is a worthwhile project for the country. It’s a positive thing for the
Philippines. If competitors can get together then we can do things. The only way
we can achieve difficult projects is if we all work together,” says Meily.
The installation of rain gauges in cell sites is expected to help PAGASA issue timely
and more accurate flood forecasts and warnings.
“One of the problems of PAGASA in improving our observing network is to choose a
site where our equipment will be safe. Another is communication. By co-locating
in a telco site, we are assured of security and an effective system to transmit
the data from the site to the broadcasting center,” says Nilo.
“And because of the many cell sites all over the country, it would not be difficult
for us to find
ideal site locations for our rain gauges,” he adds. These are in places in the country
where PAGASA doesn’t have any rainfall data in flood-prone areas, and those pinpointed
as sources of heavy rains or flood waters.
Dr. Susan Espinueva, chief of the Hydro Metrological division of PAGASA, notes that
while it is necessary, it is also difficult to find and maintain a site in the mountain
area. “This is where flood waters come from. If we can monitor the amount of rainfall
in higher places, we will have more lead time for warning residents in the low areas.”
“For the initial salvo, we have three rain gauges ready for installation within
Metro Manila,” says Nilo. These are Tipping Bucket rain gauges that can automatically
send rainfall data to PAGASA by telemetry at a desired frequency and the required
parameters. PAGASA got the rain gauges from a project funded under the Korea International
Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Last March, PAGASA met with SMART engineers and firmed up 15 possible sites. Separate
surveys of Globe and Sun cell sites are scheduled this April. The target is to have
the rain gauges installed before the onset of the rainy season.
“This is a dream we have been pursuing,” says Espinueva. She revealed that they
had interference problem in their communication link when their frequency backbone
of 800 to 900 megahertz was allotted to the cellular mobile telecom system band.
An upgrade was needed but it was too expensive. Now that they are co-locating rain
gauges in cell sites, they can ride on the expansive coverage of CMTS.
Rehabilitation of flood control system
PDRF is also working with the Special National Public Reconstruction Commission
on the rehabilitation of the Effective Flood Control Operation System (EFCOS) of
which PAGASA is the monitoring agency.
EFCOS was envisaged to achieve effective flood control operations for the Pasig-Marikina-Laguna
Lake complex through the Manggahan Floodway and the Napindan Hydraulics Control
structure. Data gathered from rain gauges and water level stations set up in key
locations are transmitted through a telemetry system to the Rosario Master Control
PAGASA automatically receives data from the Antipolo Relay Station that is linked
to the control station in Rosario and a monitor station located where the lower
Marikina River, Napindan River and Pasig River meet.
The multiplex radio link between PAGASA and the relay station in Tanay was damaged
in 2006 when super typhoon Milenyo directly hit Metro Manila. It hasn’t been restored
“There’s a network of flood monitoring and rain gauges which is supposed to be in
there. Seventy percent of the system is working, but the 30% is the important part.
That’s what a group of Dutch experts is looking at. We’re getting cost estimates
on what it will take to patch it up and repair. It’s an old system, but we think
it can still be used,” says Meily.
The rehabilitation efforts will benefit both PAGASA and the Metro Manila Development
Authority (MMDA) to whom the control of EFCOS was turned over in 2002.
The flood warning system in Metro Manila was a brainchild of the Department of Public
Works and Highways (DPWH). Its first phase, completed in 1992, was financed through
a Japanese loan amounting to P600 million. The second phase, completed in 2001,
was a P500 million grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency
The assistance being extended by PDRF in upgrading the country’s flood forecasting
system complements PAGASA’s monitoring system that is getting a boost with the addition
of Doppler radars.
Doppler radar provides real-time information on rainfall intensity, location of
a typhoon and its wind strength. It can gauge the volume of water that may pour
into specific localities for issuance of flood bulletins identifying flood-prone
PAGASA has acquired two brand-new Doppler radars to be installed in Subic and Taytay.
The agency is assured of a total of 10 Doppler radars. Two of its five existing
radars have been upgraded into Doppler.
Referred to by Pangilinan as “the eye of the Philippines when it comes to early
warning for natural disasters”, PAGASA is certainly poised to better watch over
the country in the coming days.
“We thank PDRF for recognizing the importance of PAGASA’s services and for taking
the initiative to extend a helping hand,” says Espinueva.
(Published 23 July 2010, Smart Communications Inc.)
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