WATCH: UP Resilience Institute is Project NOAH's new home
MANILA, Philippines – A few days before the country observes the National Disaster Consciousness Month in July, the University of the Philippines relaunched its Resilience Institute (UP-RI), showcasing the integration of Project National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) as its flagship program.
"As a scientist who studies disasters, I'm aware of the importance of this day because I know that our problem regarding extreme weather will intensify in the next few years. Let's unite, appreciate the importance of science and technology, and above all, value the people behind them and the people they serve," UP-RI executive director Dr Mahar Lagmay said in his speech at the relaunching event in Ang Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman, Quezon City on Wednesday, June 21.
Before being adopted by UP, Project NOAH started out as a government project, providing real-time satellite data to empower communities and help them prepare against extreme natural hazards such as floods. The initiative, however, ended as a program under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in early 2017. (READ: Gov't to stop Project NOAH due to 'lack of funds')
Project NOAH maintains a disaster management platform that provides data available for everyone to use. The services that Project NOAH provide disaster managers and the public include barangay-level hazard maps, near real-time weather information, storm surge advisories in affected localities, and apps and tools that make disaster preparation easier.
Role of science in disaster risk reduction
Senator Loren Legarda hailed the relaunch of the UP-RI, emphasizing the role of science and technology in preparing for disasters and in saving lives.
"The best strategies for disaster risk reduction are possible only with the guidance of science," Legarda, who heads the climate change and finance committees, said in her speech.
"We need science in providing the depth and breadth of information that the public needs to make decisions and take early action," she added.
Project NOAH has been instrumental in improving disaster preparedness in the country, according to Legarda, assuring the institute of state funds and calling on donors to continue supporting the initiative.
"It has been very helpful particularly in providing accurate information and timely warnings to our agencies and communities. I am glad that it will be integrated within the UP Resilience Institute," Legarda said.
Other leading disaster risk reduction champions who attended the event were Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Climate Change Commissioner Secretary Vernice Victorio, UP President Danilo Concepcion, and UP Diliman Chancellor Dr Michael Tan.
Lessons on disaster preparedness and response
After 5 years of implementing Project NOAH, Lagmay said that his team of experts learned important things in combating disasters.
"Tthe warning which the government gives should be reliable, understandable, accurate, and timely," Lagmay said. This is ensured by harnessing the best tools provided by science and technology, he said.
"We should always conduct researches on the latest and best practices for mitigating hazards. Such knowledge should be shared to benefit the people. It should not be kept from the public," he added in Filipino.
Lagmay stressed that disaster data and information should be free and accessible especially during emergencies.
"What's the use of data if it will not reach the people when it's needed the most?" he asked.
Globally, the Philippines is among the 5 countries hit by the highest number of disasters. A 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) showed that “90% of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other weather-related events" that occured between 1995 and 2015. – Rappler.com