Project NOAH scientists to be absorbed by Pagasa

SCIENTISTS and researchers manning Project NOAH won’t be displaced following an announcement that the disaster management platform will be “shut down” after Feb. 28.

In a phone interview with TIMES, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Sec. Fortunato De La Peña said the current 40 personnel operating Project NOAH will not lose jobs. He said that at least 15 to 20 will be working during a transition period when Project NOAH will be turned over to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The rest will be absorbed by DOST in related and other projects.

He said sustainable employment for continuity is in place.

The transition will take place starting March and will run until the end of the year. De La Peña said that the budget allotted by DOST for this transition is about P10-12 million.

“Pagasa is the principal government agency that would take over the operations aspect of the delivered outputs/technologies,” he said.

Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) will not be “shut down” as previously announced by its executive director Dr. Mahar Lagmay. Recent reports quote Lagmay saying that Project NOAH will cease operation due to lack of funding.

De La Peña said that like any DOST-funded project, Project NOAH has a beginning and has an end. The project, which had the end goal of being turned over to relevant agencies or companies, ran from 2011 to 2015 and has been extended since. Project NOAH is part of DOST’s Disaster Risk Reduction Research and Development Program. He added that new project proposals are welcome if there are interests in new studies to be made.

“They have accomplished a lot,” De La Peña said, mentioning that it is now time for the technology to be transferred.

He clarified that Project NOAH will still be available for access to the public even after Feb. 28, 2017.

Useful

Rodrigo Bustillo, operations and warning officer of the Davao City’s Davao City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), said that Project NOAH has been a useful tool in disaster preparedness.

“Project NOAH has provided us a basis for forecasting and disaster preparedness in Davao City,” he said.

Hazard and vulnerabilities mapping mechanisms of Project NOAH has provided the Davao DRRMO and other local disaster offices a visual overview of hydro meteorological hazards in the country.

However, it has limitations and has a lot to improve on.

Bustillo said that Project NOAH’s readings are broad and generic. It is able to label disaster prone areas but the information that it provides need local verification, which his office is doing.

It is a good reference, he said, but is not as updated as it should be, citing examples like precipitation readings of its Doppler radar.

“Some readings are not as updated in real time,” he said, adding that local readings vary differently from what Project NOAH gives.

Jonathan Victolero, DOST XI science research specialist overseeing deployment of early warning systems, said that these delays are caused by lag in data transmission and the margin of error is minimal.

Victolero said that Project NOAH has been very helpful in the region and in nearby cities in mitigating disasters in the local level. The same platform has also been helpful in disaster response when showing “safe zones” for responders.

He added that DOST will continue to deploy early warning devices that can transmit data to Project NOAH even after it is transferred to Pagasa.

Department of Agriculture Sec. Manny Pinol said he is in talks with President Rodrigo Duterte to adopt Project NOAH, seeing the importance of it in disaster mitigation and in the agriculture sector that often takes the most blows during calamities.

“I will talk to President Rody Duterte and ask him to allow the DA to take over Project NOAH,” he said in a Facebook post.

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