DOST taps Smart, Sun for flood monitoring in major river systems across PH

MANILA, Philippines — To better predict the impact of rainfall in communities across the country, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is partnering with two telecom networks to co-locate its rain gauges and river sensors in several of its cell sites deployed around the Philippines.

The partnership, dubbed the National Flood Hazard Monitoring and Mitigation Program, was signed last week by the top executives of Smart Communications and Digitel Mobile Philippines (Sun Cellular) along with DOST Sec. Mario Montejo.

Under the agreement, the DOST will co-locate 600 of its automated rain gauges (ARGs) in several cell sites of the two operators located near 18 major river systems across the country.

Aside from ARGs, the DOST will also install automated water level sensors in these river systems. Both sensors would be transmitting their readings through the Smart and Sun networks for at least four times every hour, and will be collated at the central database of the Science and Technology agency.

The country’s weather bureau, which is under the DOST, has already installed several of these ARGs in about 63 Smart cell sites under a 2011 agreement.

Napoleon Nazareno, Smart president and chief executive, claimed that Smart’s cell sites were able to withstand major natural disasters in the past years, including Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and Typhoon Sendong in Northern Mindanao.

“We will thus be able to provide the high degree of resiliency and reliability that the DOST program requires,” Nazareno said.

Sun Cellular President and CEO Orlando Vea, meanwhile, underscored the need for a better disaster preparedness program for the country as “scientists [warn] us that climate change will bring even more storms to the Philippines.”

Early this year, the DOST also signed an accord with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to improve the two agencies’ collection of data with regard flood monitoring.

Under the agreement, the DOST will help the MMDA in rehabilitating its two existing MMA stations and help in rolling out 38 water level monitoring sensors as well as 13 automated rain gauges across Metro Manila.

The swelling of major river systems has been particularly critical in the disasters that struck Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Northern Mindanao, and Pampanga and Bulacan in North Luzon last year, which put greater emphasis on the country’s flood monitoring programs.

In Mindanao, residents living near the massive Cagayan de Oro river did not expect water to spill from the major river system as a torrent of rain billowed down overnight, causing the river to swell, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 residents.

Meanwhile, in North Luzon, residents of Bulacan and Pampanga had to endure weeks of living in six-feet-high floods after the Pampanga River Basin spilled due to days of constant rains and after dams near the area were forced to let water out.