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DRRNet: Increase disaster prevention and mitigation investments like Project NOAH

We, at Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines (DRRNet Philippines), strongly urge the Philippine government to increase investment in disaster prevention and mitigation through institutionalization of programs such as the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH.

A few days ago, Executive Director Dr. Mahar Lagmay told the media that Project NOAH will cease its operations on February 28. He shared that his office has submitted a proposal for project extension but was disapproved. In a statement, Secretary Fortunato dela Peña of the Department of Science and Technology clarified that since Project NOAH has reached its targets and deliverables within the agreed project timeframe, its outputs and technologies which are now ready for use and adoption will be turned over to PAGASA. However, Dr. Lagmay further appealed to maintain the disaster scientists who have been on board Project NOAH to ensure the program’s sustainability.

Project NOAH, which was estimated to have cost around 6.4 billion pesos since its inception, according to Dr. Lagmay, was launched to undertake disaster science research and development, advance the use of cutting edge technologies, and recommend innovative information services in the government's disaster prevention and mitigation efforts. The program has helped the country to avert disasters by making satellite imageries and hazard maps available to the public, particularly to LGUs in high-risk communities.

The Philippines remains to be at the top three worldwide with the highest exposure to natural hazards (World Risk Index 2016), hence, Project NOAH’s critical role in disaster risk reduction in our country cannot be overstated. By providing up-to-date risk information, it empowers communities to prepare for natural hazards such as typhoon, storm surge, flooding, and rain-induced landslide.

Disaster risk reduction in the Philippines has gone beyond forecasting to the development of early warning systems and measures aided by scientifically validated risk information. One of the strengths of Project NOAH is its strong collaboration with local government units and non-government organizations which has made it successful in providing weather-related data and models, hazard maps, and exposure data, so that LGUs and responders can better prepare and respond to disasters. Project NOAH’s participation in the Pre-disaster Risk Reduction Assessment (PDRA) called by the NDRRMC during an impending typhoon provides scenarios and advisories for LGUs exposed to the typhoon. These advisories have proven useful in Daram, Samar when it was hit by Typhoon Ruby on December 6, 2014 where 1,667 houses were washed away by storm surge. Aided by the advisories, pre-emptive evacuation was conducted by the LGU in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda resulting to zero casualty in Daram and nearby municipalities.

We have been calling on the government through the Barangay 911 Campaign, to reduce vulnerability of communities to disasters by investing in disaster prevention and mitigation, thus, we continue to urge the Philippine government to ensure proper transition of Project NOAH to relevant agencies and increase investment in other similar prevention and mitigation programs. With climate change and the increasing frequency of natural and human-induced hazards, the government needs to invest more on science and technology to support evidence-based disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

The Philippines is exposed to almost all kinds of natural hazards, making it conducive for disaster and hazard-related research. The outputs of our scientists and researchers are a valuable resource if we are to improve the quality of our plans and strategies in DRRM. We should create an enabling environment by providing them with protection benefits and remuneration at par with their skills and qualifications. Human resources in disaster risk reduction work is vital to ensure its continuity and sustainability.

We also support the institutionalization of Project NOAH to in such a way that it will be able to effectively complement efforts of other science agencies in sustaining the disaster prevention and mitigation initiatives in the Philippines. The proposal to establish a NOAH Center will ensure funding and provide venue for continued research on disaster science. This Center shall provide assistance to climate change adaptation and disaster prevention and mitigation efforts, and advance timely, reliable, and readily-accessible data to empower vulnerable communities with information as basis for their action against impending floods, typhoons, and other natural hazards.

Disaster risk reduction promotes a whole-of-society approach as stated in the Sendai Framework. Project NOAH works with various stakeholders through the development and propagation of risk information. We can only deal with the new normal if we are aware of our exposure to hazards, planned and prepared with our communities, learned from our experiences, and utilized science and technology to our advantage.#

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