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The Philippines Disaster Response Bolstered by UN Programme

Image credits: ph.undp.org

The United Nations has been a beacon of hope for countries all over the planet. This time around it is boosting the Philippines’ ability to respond to disasters with technology. To support the deployment of emergency telecommunications services in vulnerable and typhoon-hit areas, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines completed the delivery of an initial set of four (4) pick-up trucks, twenty (20) satellite phones with pre-loaded SIM cards, ten (10) VSAT equipment with hard case and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and an emergency cellular base transceiver station to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

All this is in line with the DICT’s mandate to provide rapid response in the event of disasters and assist in the dissemination of vital information as part of its frontline role as the lead agency of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC).

Back-up communications systems and platforms are essential for emergency response, as connectivity is often one of the first services that are impacted by extreme weather conditions. The satellite phones were delivered at the height of the deployment during the Typhoon Odette response in January, and thereafter the VSAT equipment was provided in February.

In a recent ceremony in the DICT CARAGA Regional Office in Butuan City, UNDP Philippines Deputy Resident Representative Edwine Carrie personally turned over three pick-up trucks to DICT Undersecretary for Resilient Government Emergency Communications Alan A. Silor. A fourth pick-up truck was also delivered to the DICT CARAGA Regional Office subsequently after the ceremony.

This cooperative engagement with UNDP shall enable the DICT to expand its reach in the most affected areas by provisioning critical emergency communications equipment and support services.

– Alan A. Silor, Undersecretary, Department of Information and Communications Technology – Resilient Government Emergency Communications

In turn, Mr Edwine Carrie highlighted that the contributions will not only support DICT, but also contribute to supporting local governments as they move towards recovery planning, restoring critical services and infrastructure, and resilience-building interventions – with the end goal of improving equal access to sustainable basic services by the population and leaving no one behind.

Aside from these, critical emergency communications and ICT equipment and services like additional VSAT equipment with hard case and UPS, power generator sets, dual-band two-way mobile base radios, and portable rugged tablets will also be delivered and pre-deployed in strategic areas.

UNDP has utilised its emergency funds in procuring the said items as part of its commitment to support the DICT and the Government of the Philippines in the response and recovery work from the onslaught of typhoons. This initiative also targets to support preparedness and resilience-building for other disasters that might occur in the future.

The handed-over vehicles and emergency communications equipment will be deployed in several high-impact areas like Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) and seats of local government units to facilitate ease of coordination, response, and even recovery during disaster operations. Part of the inventory will be prepositioned to support the critical areas of concern, with locations covering the provinces most affected by Typhoon Odette like Bohol, Cebu, Southern Leyte and Surigao del Norte.

Experts believe the Philipines is sitting in a disaster zone as it’s part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a path along the Pacific Ocean that is prone to volcano eruptions and earthquakes. To make matters worse, the country is also regularly visited by typhoons.

Digital technology can make a huge difference in helping disaster-hit regions of the country. A clear example is how VSATs made a difference in typhoon-struck areas in Mindanao in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette, one of the strongest in the country’s history. DICT delivered those VSATs as intended.

Another example of how digitalisation can infuse positive change is the digital transformation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). Thanks to technology, the agency was able to collect more taxes even at the height of the pandemic as reported on OpenGov Asia.

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