The neglected tsunami warning system
posted 12-Nov-2018  ·  
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Despite passing 400 kilometers to the north, typhoon Rosita made its presence felt to coastal residents of this island when a storm surge kicked up by the typhoon’s winds inundated beach resorts and seaside residential areas.

While no casualty was recorded as a result of the natural phenomenon, the occurrence of which was predicted by the country’s weather agency, the storm surge caught many residents and beach goers by surprise.

That this happened is understandable. No public storm signal was raised by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Catanduanes, Rosita then being too far away to cause any damage save for occasional rains and a strong breeze.

But the fact that the storm surge occurred should be enough for the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to issue a warning to local officials the next time a typhoon with winds of over 200 kilometers per hour approaches the country within a 500-kilometer arc from the island.

It should not take the risk of reporting entirely preventable casualties in a weather phenomenon about which PAGASA has already announced an alert. Not only would the local disaster bodies be criticized for inaction and for sitting on their asses, their immediate superiors would be severely castigated by the public. The consequences of such neglect, especially in the next seven months, could be disastrous for the political careers of the province’s leaders.

A very glaring example is the way disaster officials treated, or rather ignored, the September 2016 report of the Catanduanes Tribune regarding the pitiful state of the Community Tsunami Detection and

Warning System installed at the port of Virac in April 2015 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs).

Since the metal arm of the facility was damaged and bent by MV Jasper Peter operated by Eastern Island Shipping Line, nobody from PhiVolcs has reportedly visited to examine the facility that detects abnormal fall or rise in sea elevation indicating the high probability that a tsunami might occur.

Last week, during World Tsunami Awareness Day on Nov. 5, Senator Loren Legarda called on national and local officials to implement community-based early warning systems and other disaster risk reduction measures to save lives and mitigate damages from tsunamis and other disasters.

She underscored the fact that while tsunamis might not be as frequent as other natural hazards, they are considered as extremely deadly and costly. In the last century, tsunamis registered an average of 4,600 deaths per disaster, surpassing the mortality rate for any other natural hazard, the senator stressed.

The good senator, described as a Global Champion for Resilience of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), would be disappointed to know that, at least here in Catanduanes, the DOST’s Cost-Effective Local Tsunami Early Warning System for Selected High-Risk Coastal Communities of the Philippines will not be able to do its part to warn the people against incoming tsunamis.

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