By: Weatherguy Adonis
Long Wait Is Now Over, Enter Project NOAH
Iloilo City, Philippines, 12 June 2012, (1230Z)–For almost three (3) years of unrelenting campaign, the country’s official weather bureau, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has finally come up to a solution in addressing the need of a reliable, efficient and adequate source of weather data that for a majority of countries from around the world have been utilizing for decades already! It was only now that the Philippines could have established capability of its ageing weather stations across the archipelago. We’ve come to age, only now but welcome development altogether! The agency was long beleaguered by tough calls, indecision and poor handling of forecasting by any rate. Now is the time to move forward. We should take into cognizance the stark reality that the Sun doesn’t shine brightly everyday, not all days of the calendar year are Sunny, nor it should be Summer! One huge challenge we try to contain, and get hold of its temper are the elusive capability to predict incoming severe weather. The Philippines is geographically situated in Southeast Asia wherein tropical climate dominate its weather year-round with breaks of torrential rains, and by far the most important of all, the coming of the surging “Southwest Monsoon,” a.k.a. “Habagat,” at the onset of the rainy season, finishing off with the arrival of Typhoons through September until December, wherein the “Supers,” of Typhoons kick off. You might get the gist right?
Having said it all though, certainly gives us a decapitating incapacity of maintaining propriety during the opening of school year especially in the rainy month of June where floods face our children in schools, drawing perils to millions of our people. A knee-numbing experience we all face in the duration of the seemingly “Alive, unstoppable,” forces of nature. A place we call Earth, love or hate it but we got no means to go against its will. The choice remains on us all. We must ensure ourselves protection from the elements, and we’re just empowered to respond to that call.
Changing the school calendar won’t be the only solution–taming the weather mystery is one logical step.
The years of neglect and bureaucracy has taken a huge toll on the agency. It took decades to particularly emboss the materiality of sufficing the requirement. Given the option to provide essential heads-up of incoming weather systems that has a potential to affect largely the agricultural sector, where most of our countrymen earn a living, the seas roughen up during Typhoon season spells dwindling stocks of fish and aquatic resources. What about the threats of suddenness of changing climate, and dipping temperatures during the cold months, fish kills abound. Talk about the searing heat of the last Summer months–new records have been set.
Change Has Come To Age
How about the ecologically-sensitive environment of the country? The lives on the line and the future we hold so dearly, are utterly priceless! That’s what at stake! With so much to lose, the current administration has ensured an accelerated modernization of the weather bureau’s long-awaited capacity build-up organization-wide. It could not be more vivid in the hearts and minds of my fellow “Kababayans” that for so long a time we have been all clamouring for a more dedicated PAGASA–the time has come of age, it has to be now or never!
This is how it looked in 2011:
Spot the difference while standing aside, the old dilemma of daily aspect of living, with much question rather than answers to the obvious wonders, the “Weather,” with the brand of itself deserve nothing but credibility and accuracy, and the dumbfounded inaccuracy of forecasts on a daily basis are proven to be counterproductive, a huge blow to the vast rich archipelagic geography riddled with awesome sea resources and agriculture that lies scattered across a staggering bountiful 7,107 Islands and Islets across much of the Philippines, “truly to die for!”
It has been a long, arduous journey for me and the rest of the Filipino people since the day the very word, “Doppler Radar,” has been made into obviously an occurrence of great mystery on when it will be made of public access. This I think for the last decade we have all essentially been waiting for. It’s a taste to a growing clamour for transparency and accountability in the agency and of course, we all deserve a big break from all the ill-effects these severe of storms have been putting us of great setback and economic disarray.
A peek into the the new using Google-based platform:
Tragic Event Catalyst For Change
Modernizing PAGASA has long been a dream since the former sacked PAGASA Chief, Dr. Prisco Nilo who was unceremoniously removed from his post due to a very bad situation or rather a really bad take on Typhoon “Basyang,” internationally known as “Conson,” on 13 July of 2010, wherein Dr. Nilo has assured the current President, Benigno S. Aquino III that the projected path of the Typhoon was more to the Northeast of Manila, pointing at Aurora-Isabela Provinces in a command conference together with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Worse, the projected path it was pegged by the agency was to spare the rest of Metro Manila. Unfortunately, the Typhoon got stronger, changed direction as it roared through the metropolis without warning.
If you may ask what has gone terribly wrong? The following day after the storm has struck, 14th of July 2010, one hundred four (104) people perished in the storm that has struck at midnight, where most people are unaware, the agency raised the Public Storm Warning Signal No. 1 to 2, as it pummeled Metro Manila and the environs, toppled trees, mangled transmission lines causing massive blackouts in the National Capital Region (NCR), and adjacent provinces at the cost of Billions of property damage and vital infrastructures. That was the last straw. Politics did the works, but ultimately, there has to be another way!
Unending Dilemma Continues To Thrive
A month later, after a speedy investigation, the PAGASA Chief was removed from his post, the country’s top chief pegged the agency a time frame of revamping its prehistoric approaches. Change came swiftly as the demoted Dr. Nilo was immediately replaced by then Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul as officer in charge, which only this year, on 12th of March, he has tendered his resignation due to “Personal reasons,” after twenty-eight (28) years of government service. During the tenure of Usec. Yumul, a deadly series of Typhoon incidence and higher damage infliction to the country and increased incidence of deaths all associated with a flawed network of information that has evidently transgressed the system and the manner of disseminating the right message to the public, the last cataclysmic Tropical Storm to have erased an entire community across Northern and Eastern Mindanao last year was caused by a “Stealthy, unseasonal” an unorthodox system tagged as “Sendong,” known internationally as “Washi,” to everyone’s deadly surprise! One could entirely blame the lack of understanding and irresponsibility of some, not all, but take a look at the picture and find out where the trouble started? Blame game are just for starters.
In the duration of its rampaging torrents of rains on 16-18 December 2011, it took the lives of many, reaching more than 2,000 deaths, others weren’t lucky to be recovered at the cost of multibillion losses to infrastructure and relief efforts wherein sister cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro were amongst the badly hit regions, to include many more provinces in Southern Visayas of Dumaguete City and Central Mindanao.
A New Era Has Come
As the Aquino Presidency entered its third year of governance, a huge chunk of veritable changes has been in the works, that included PAGASA’s multi-billion dollar modernization and upgrading of its older facilities nationwide. It has been regarded as one important step in achieving its goals and the performance of its mandate since the agency was founded in 1865.
The latest Japan-built multimillion-peso Doppler Radar facility, was inaugurated in Bato, Catanduanes Province on 3rd of May 2012 as the first of three such stations to be erected in Typhoon-prone spots all over the country. The government has been all hands deck in the establishment of other weather monitoring equipment across the archipelago in order to muster the current weather conditions while the state-of-the-art Doppler Radar facilities are continually being interconnected and tested for its dependability and essentially provide adequate data beamed back to its central office in Quezon City. A standby generator has also been provided to power the Doppler Radar facility and the station, including lighting units where seven (7) Surface observatory stations located in Legazpi City in Albay, Daet in Sorsogon, Virac, Calapan City, Catarman and Romblon Island.
In a paper I’ve read, it was learned that a whopping Php 1.7 Billion was availed by the Aquino government via the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to erect the station in Bato, Catanduanes Province, a Php580 million price tag to be exact, was funded by grant aid and another two (2) similar facilities in Aparri, Cagayan in the Northernmost region of Luzon, and in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where most of the Typhoons make landfall there. Also, the Buenavista facility is the eighth (8th) Doppler Radar station in the country, with the other seven (7) funded by the Philippine government.
“We must continue focusing more of our resources on creating a system that will better warn us and our people about possible typhoons,” Aquino lamented in an interview published in a national broadsheet, Inquirer.
At present, PAGASA has launched its newest program dubbed, “Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH). Anyone can just check their website where four (4) operational Doppler Radar facilities across Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao.
In Luzon, the Subic Doppler Radar has been operational since last year and also the Tagaytay Doppler Radar station. In Central Visayas, Cebu Doppler Radar station has been operating for the past few months this year and further South, in Mindanao, the Hinatuan Doppler Radar station, one of the oldest site for PAGASA’s outdated Radar system has been retrofitted by latest technology and has been finally upgraded and are in operation. I would like to congratulate the untiring efforts of the people behind the project at PAGASA and we wish you all good luck and we do expect more from the current administration to capacitate and further enhance our people’s understanding the dynamics of meteorology in the light of surging Typhoons that frequent our land. Most common are the daily inclement weather that has its dire impacts to them, the vital installations and industries, and of course the fragile economy of the nation. We will be in close watch on the development as this make or break discourse could lead into something useful, and to better the future of our people and the nation.
I’d like also to point out that early this January 2012, our resident meteorologist Robert Speta wrote a story as regards to Doppler Radars across the Western Pacific. You can access it by clicking the link: http://www.westernpacificweather.com/?p=2201
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That would be all from me, your Weatherguy, hailing from the Philippines saying “Stay safe and be one step ahead of the weather!” ;)
With data from PAGASA, ANC24/7, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Presidential Communications Operations Office-Malacañan Palace, Google and Westernpacificweather.com