The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) joined SM Prime Holdings Inc. and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in the conduct of the Top Leaders Forum 2015 last November 10, 2015 at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The forum is a yearly event that gathers top level leaders from both the public and private sectors to tackle issues on disaster risk reduction in order to implement tangible projects and initiatives that will result in reducing industry losses brought about by natural hazards.

During the forum proper, the UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) in the Philippines was launched as a vehicle to provide opportunity for private organizations and the business sector to become members in a concerted effort in addressing the problems brought about by the changing weather patterns.

DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo presented the different programs of the DOST in generating risk information and risk assessment in line with the agreements reached during the formulation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015.

“As our country is committed to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the DOST has implemented a number of disaster risk reduction programs like the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH and we integrated our LiDAR maps with our improved weather information to generate simulation models and come up with early warning systems for flood, storm surge and landslides,” Montejo said.

It is projected that by 2030, there will be trillions of dollars in business investments across all sectors including those in hazard prone areas and so the need to assess and reduce risk becomes imperative for the private sector and disaster preparedness is no longer a choice but a must.

Montejo further said, “Science should be put to work to save lives as this is what President Aquino stressed in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong and Project NOAH has since then provided us with an flood early warning system with a 6-hour lead time using advance software technology, flood modeling and simulation and real-time data gathering from more than 1,500 sensors all over the country, all these developed by our own Filipino scientists and engineers.”

Project NOAH is the flagship program of the DOST that provides a digital platform as repository of weather and hazard information that includes rainfall amount, typhoon track, water level monitoring system, flood, landslide and storm surge hazard maps. These hazard maps were produced using the light detection and ranging technology or LiDAR under the Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation component under Project NOAH.

Montejo further stressed that aside from disaster preparedness, the DOST strategy also proved effective in coming up with more reliable, site-specific risk information for better land-use planning.

Also, by harnessing science and technology, Montejo said the DOST was able to identify safe and hazard areas using LiDAR technology and it was proven effective as the settlement areas identified were safe two years later, when typhoon Agaton hit the same areas and caused massive flooding.

“The science-based approach served as basis in establishing the bedrock of the government’s ‘building back better’ program,” added Montejo.

During the recent Typhoon Lando which flooded low-lying areas in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, Project NOAH hazard maps identified 15 municipalities, flooding 357 square kilometers that will possibly affect 600,000 people. With this information, local government units and other stakeholders can prepare early and provision supplies and evacuation centers to lessen the impact of flooding.

According to Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, the DOST was able to utilize science and technology even before the Sendai Framework was drafted to stress the importance of S&T to disaster risk reduction.

Those present during the forum were big names in Philippine business like Hans T. Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings Inc.; Suzie Mitchell, country manager of DHL Supply Chain Phils. Inc.; Sandra Wu, chairperson and CEO of Kokusai Kogyo Co.; Kate Landry, director of Build Change; Dr. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, director of the Manila Observatory; and Alex Cabrera, chairman and senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Philippines. On the public sector side, aside from Montejo, there were Undersecretary Alexander Pama of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and Undersecretary Corazon Jimenez, general manager of MMDA who spoke of government initiatives and programs. (S&T Media Service)

Secretary Mario G. Montejo (middle) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) listens to Hans T. Sy, (right) president of SM Prime Holdings Inc., as they discuss government initiatives in disaster risk reduction like DOST’s Project NOAH and how the private sector plays a vital role in mitigating disasters by ensuring business continuity plans are properly implemented. The dialogue was held during the Top Leaders Forum 2015 at the SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City. Also in photo is DOST Assistant Secretary Raymund E. Liboro, co-founder of Project NOAH. (Text by Rodolfo P. de Guzman/Photo by Henry de Leon, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)

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