When weather monitoring instruments are stolen, people especially those living in areas vulnerable to floods and landslides are robbed of a chance to prepare against climate induced disaster.
Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo said the safety of individuals and communities is a responsibility that must be shared by the government, local authorities, and private sectors.
That responsibility includes storming the communities with awareness drive down to the village level on the life saving function and importance of weather monitoring instruments in predicting typhoon, rain and flood risks, landslides, and related climate hazards.
Montejo expressed alarm over recent reported incident of stolen or missing flood warning sensors attributed to DOST’s weather forecasting arm, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
But the missing copper grounding rod and grounding cable are not flood sensors as reported in media but serve as protection to the sensor to prevent short circuit, similar to the function of a lightning arrester. Those were actually under the care of Japan Radio Company Ltd., a project contractor of Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The four missing grounding equipment were attached to bridges in the towns of Bugallon, Sta. Maria, and Bayambang in Pangasinan province, and another in neighboring Tarlac City.
According to Hilario Esperanza, head of PAGASA’s Agno River Flood Forecasting Section, JICA was supposed to turn over the equipment to the weather agency and inaugurate it in March.
While under JRCL’s responsibility, PAGASA’s role over the lost equipment covered supervision of installation and monitoring of field data.
“When it involves people’s safety, we can’t leave anything to chance”, Montejo said. “Nature’s wrath affects us all. But to take away anything, any basic device that helps save even a single life diminishes us as people”, he added.
Montejo plans to pursue a stronger security arrangement with local authorities in communities that host PAGASA weather monitoring facilities nationwide. This will be done in coordination with the police and military authorities in such areas.
He has asked DOST Undersecretary and PAGASA officer-in-charge Graciano P. Yumul, Jr. to review existing safety procedures in all its field weather monitoring facilities.
This development comes in the wake of unusually heavy rainfall and massive floods occurring in southern parts of the country that already claimed dozens of casualties, displaced thousands of families, destroyed roads and bridges, swamped farmlands, toppled power and communication lines, and disrupted lives early into what was supposed to be a hopeful new year.
Yumul warns that La Niña will peak around March and linger until May. This means more rains and typhoons can be expected to hit the country this year. [S&T Media Service]