Communities along major rivers will have two hours to prepare and scurry to safer grounds ahead of impending floods when real time updates on water level becomes available within the next two years, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo said.
“We will be able to provide two-hour lead-time on our flood forecast,” Montejo disclosed during the 6th North Luzon Science and Technology Fair held in Santiago, Isabela. “This can translate in terms of lives and properties saved, especially for those living near the rivers.”
In a speech delivered for him by DOST Assistant Secretary Ma. Lourdes P. Orijola, Montejo bared that DOST repaired five of 18 rain gauge sensors of Metro Manila’s Effective Flood Control Operating System. The sensors were not operational when Typhoon Ondoy struck in September last year.
A communication link between DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute and the University of the Philippines’ Meteorology Department, both in Diliman, will enable real time water level updates along the Pasig-Marikina River.
Montejo said the flood forecasting system will be deployed in all of the country’s major rivers “in the next one to two years.”
This is a welcome development in Northern Luzon where Typhoon Pepeng set off landslides and floods that killed at least 125 people in October last year.
Pepeng isolated the Ilocos region from the rest of Luzon and roads from Pangasinan leading to Manila were impassable. Heavy rains and water discharged from a dam in Pangasinan flooded 30 out of 46 towns along the Agno River. The eastern part of the province was described as “one big river."
The flood forecasting system will be part of a series of programs showing that “local innovation really works,” Montejo said.
He said DOST is laying down a new typhoon tracking system to improve accuracy of forecasts by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
“We intend to improve our communication strategy with the public by providing hourly weather updates,” Montejo said.
DOST plans to develop a local mass transit system similar to the Light Rail Transit but at only one-fourth to one-fifth of the cost of imported counterparts. It will also develop windmills that will cost far less than foreign windmills and expand the share of renewable energy source in the country.
Montejo also said DOST aims to make affordable version of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machine for use of the Commission on Elections. “If we are able to build a system that will cost only P2 billion, we can generate P5 billion in savings,” he added.
“Developing local innovative capability shall be the hallmark of my administration,” he said. “This will help us position ourselves favorably in strategic niches. We need to make sure that what we do will have an impact on the economy and, most especially, on the Filipino.”
As a major commerce and industry center, Montejo said Northern Luzon is expected to be a major player in DOST’s “pursuit of a market-driven approach in its programs, projects, and policies.”
“If the climate for innovation is conducive, we can count on our research and development sector to support and work with local firms to come up with products, services, and technologies that are competitive,” Montejo said. “Let me assure you that there is money in innovation.”