New warning signals eyed for storm surges (Inquirer)

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3:29 am | Saturday, February 1st, 2014

The Aquino administration is mulling new public warning signals for storm surges and floods to give the country a fighting chance against climate change.

At a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, a storm surge advisory (SSA) protocol and flood advisory (FA) system were proposed by Science Secretary Mario Montejo and “Project Noah” Executive Director Mahar Lagmay.

The two officials made the proposal after presenting to President Benigno Aquino III and Cabinet members the results of various simulation studies on storm surges, floods and landslides, using data for the last 50 years to project future trends.

If the protocol is adopted, SSA No. 1 would indicate a storm surge height of up to two meters; SSA No. 2, up to five meters; and SSA No. 3, more than five meters.

Unlike public weather warning signals, which are updated in 24 hours, a storm surge advisory will be given 48 hours in advance.

According to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, the storm surge disaster risk reduction efforts are geared at achieving the following: Reduction of exposure in the coastal areas by implementing “no-build” zones, development of natural barriers and construction of man-made barriers to reduce impact of hazard, and resiliency of home, building and other infrastructure.

Also proposed at the Cabinet meeting was the adoption of a flood advisory (FA) system—FA No. 1 refers to rainfall up to 129 mm within the next 24 hours; FA No. 2, up to 190 mm rainfall; and FA No. 3, up to 240 mm rainfall.

The new advisory systems for storm surges and floods are part of a disaster preparedness road map that the President wants adopted before the onset of the rainy season in June.

The Cabinet task group in charge over the road map will be composed of the secretaries of the Department of National Defense (DND), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Science and Technology, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Climate Change Commission, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

“Priority areas of focus are highly vulnerable high-population areas such as the National Capital Region. How to restart the economy after a major disaster is another priority concern,” said Coloma.

Besides improvement of government’s disaster preparedness capability, the President and the Cabinet discussed updates on rehabilitation of areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

“In the second part of the meeting, Secretary Panfilo Lacson presented an update on the government’s post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts,” said Coloma.

The Cabinet adopted the proposal of Lacson to designate four pilot areas for reconstruction: Tacloban City, the hardest hit area; Tanauan, Leyte, for its tourism potential and build-back capacity; Guiuan, Eastern Samar, for the high level of private sector interest; and Biliran province, for government-led programs.

Yolanda, the strongest storm to ever hit land, killed some 6,200, toppled power lines and flattened entire neighborhoods on Nov. 8.

President Aquino estimating the initial phase of reconstruction to cost a whopping P130 billion.

Big corporations and private donors have also volunteered to spearhead rehabilitation efforts in 24 areas within the calamity zone, said Coloma, quoting Lacson.

Mr. Aquino also ordered the immediate completion of land-use plans that would clearly delineate no-build zones.

This article was originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 1, 2014.

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