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System Interoperability Bolsters Dam Safety in the Philippines

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The National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) has successfully ensured the effective interoperability of traditional and modern flood forecasting and warning systems at Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan as part of the ongoing La Niña preparations.

Image credits: Philippine Information Agency

Despite the advancements in technology, many citizens still rely on traditional methods for crucial updates. In this context, Manuel Lukban, Head of Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office stressed the importance of interoperability between traditional and modern dam safety management systems to ensure accurate information reaches all sectors through various methods.

The analogue system at Angat Dam is now augmented by modern instrumentation under Package 2 of the Angat Dam and Dyke Strengthening Project, backed by P237 million (about US$ 4 million) from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. This includes computerised weather satellites, meteorological radar workstations, and a digital flood forecasting system.

The modern system monitors daily weather conditions, forecasts rainfall, and predicts water levels in Angat Dam. Additionally, it includes the Flow Metering and Spillway Gates Control, which measures water release from the dam and issues warnings before water release.

The modern system integrates seamlessly with the older analogue structure, which still uses cassette tapes from the 1980s to send messages via radio to municipal disaster coordinating councils, now known as Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices (MDRRMO).

For instance, these messages estimate the arrival time of released water to specific parts of the Angat River, which takes approximately two hours and 15-30 minutes to reach Padling and Matictic in Norzagaray and up to nine hours to reach Pulilan and Plaridel.

The traditional forecasting system remains compatible and continues to inform situational reports for the PDRRMO, local governments, and national agencies. Both systems are crucial for the PDRRMO to directly inform MDRRMOs and media members. This integration of traditional and modern flood forecasting systems ensures a robust, reliable approach to dam safety management, enhancing preparedness and response capabilities in the region.

Lukban cautioned the public against believing rumours about water releases from Angat Dam unless verified by NAPOCOR, PDRRMO, or MDRRMOs, to prevent unnecessary fear and confusion among citizens.

The Philippines prioritises critical event management and disaster preparedness, harnessing cutting-edge technology to enhance these efforts. By leveraging advanced systems, the country aims to improve response times and ensure the safety and resilience of its communities. Continuous innovation in this field is crucial to addressing the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters.

OpenGov Asia reported that the Department of Health (DOH) has inaugurated the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) Command Center in Cebu City, the first of its kind among DOH hospitals in the Visayas, equipped to handle health emergencies and disasters.

The centre features advanced monitoring technology, live weather updates, and real-time data surveillance, ensuring prompt and effective responses. This initiative aligns with the DOH’s commitment to universal healthcare and proactive disaster management, enhancing the region’s resilience and preparedness.

Additionally, the Philippines plans to deploy Mobile Energy System (MES) units in typhoon-prone areas to ensure uninterrupted power during emergencies, further strengthening disaster response capabilities.

Researchers and authorities in the Philippines are using advanced technologies like LiDAR, IfSAR, and UAVs through initiatives like Geo-SAFER and GeoRisk Philippines to improve disaster risk reduction and management. The DATOS Help Desk integrates GIS, Remote Sensing, AI, and Data Science to provide critical information to local government units.

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