Use of ICT for Connectivity and Mitigating the Effects of Natural Disaster delivered by :
Undersecretary Louis Napoleon C. Casambre

Session 2 “Enhancing Socio-economic Activities through the Use of ICT”

APEC TELMIN 9

To our host, H.E. Nikolay Nikiforov, Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russian Federation, fellow APEC TELMIN Leaders, senior officials, guests and delegates….

A pleasant good morning to you all.

The Philippines acknowledges that ICT plays a vital role in mitigating the effects of natural disasters, minimizing loss to life and property. The Philippines is visited by around 20 typhoons per year, and is also located at the Pacific Ring of Fire where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abound.  These two phenomena have placed the Philippines as one of the countries that have high natural disaster risks. Recently, we have experienced typhoons that are stronger in terms of rain intensity causing flash floods and landslides in areas that rarely experience them.

In view of this, the Philippine government through its Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in partnership with the academe and other stakeholders recently launched the National Operational Assessment of Hazards or NOAH Program. NOAH is takes a multi-disciplinary approach in developing systems, tools, and other technologies that could be operationalized by government to minimize the adverse effects and mitigate weather related natural disasters.

NOAH’s mission is to undertake disaster science research and development, advance the use of cutting edge technologies and recommend innovative information services for the government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts.  We are particularly looking at sensor networks and systems, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications technology standards to enhance existing environmental sensor networks.

Presently there are eight (8) component projects under the NOAH program (enumerate);

1) Hydro met Sensors Development, wherein a total of 600 Automated Rain Gauges (ARG) and 400 Water Level Monitoring Stations (WLMS) will be assembled, configured, calibrated and installed at 18 major river basins of the country.

2) Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation- Light Detection and Ranging (DREAM-LIDAR), which aims to produce flood hazard maps for flood-prone river systems and major watersheds and river systems in the country;

3) Flood NET-Flood Modeling Project, the main expected output of which is the establishment of a flood center where all pertinent data are gathered and analyzed using a developed hydrologic model. Once in operation, FloodNET can then release flood forecasts for critical basins using the acquired data as analyzed/interpreted by numerical models;

4) Hazards Information Media, the project primarily involves strategic communication interventions such as processing and packaging of relevant and up-to-date information for public use;

5) Enhancing Geo-hazards Mapping, wherein the introduction of light detection and ranging  shall now allow for the conduct of more sophisticated means of identifying landslide-prone areas.

6) Local Development of Doppler Radar System . The sub-systems include the radio frequency analog front end, the digital signal processing (radar processor) intermediate blocks and the implementation of algorithms in the backend processing of the raw data in a host computer;

7) Landslide Sensors Development Project, the project aims to develop sensor networks that would provide ample data to predict the occurrence of landslides in particular areas specifically those that were already identified through the geo hazard mapping as landslide prone areas in order to mitigate tremendous damages in life and property and;

8) Coastal Hazards and Storm Surge Assessment and Mitigation to generate wave surge models, wave refraction models, and coastal circulation models to understand coastal erosion and recommend solutions.

With 23 active and 27 are potentially active volcanoes in the Philippines, Our fellow DOST Agency, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) is kept fairly busy and have also adopted measures in mitigating the effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions through various monitoring network systems.

PHIVOLCS uses a multi-parameter volcano monitoring system which is currently monitoring the most active volcanoes in the country with six (6) volcano observatories and one seismic station. Volcanologists use the data gathered from the observatories and seismic stations in order to predict potential volcanic eruptions through special instruments like seismic sensors, placed on the slopes of volcanoes to monitor the escalation of volcanic seismicity. Data are then transmitted in real time via radio to the observatory for storage and processing.

Ground deformations are also monitored as rising magma beneath an active volcano produces swelling or inflation in the volcanic edifice. These deformations can be measured using geodetic networks of Electronic Distance Meters (EDM), Precise Levels, Tilt Meters, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Satellite Remote Sensing. All these contribute to volcanic eruption prediction which sends early warning to the nearby communities, significantly decreasing potential casualties.

On another note, the Philippines is also looking to use unutilized television frequencies in the VHF and UHF spectrum bands, more commonly known as TV White Spaces (TVWS) for data applications.

Our recently launched TV White Space (TVWS) Initiative aims to address the pressing connectivity requirements of Filipinos and Government Systems. Applications such as rural broadband, environmental sensor networks, telemedicine (e-health), educational content delivery (e-education) as well as Government Information Systems can benefit greatly from this technology.

TVWS’s capability of penetrating walls and thick foliage and long range propagation characteristics over land and water make it an ideal medium for data applications in an island nation like the Philippines. We expect the next generation of weather and environment sensors to be equipped with TVWS transceivers.

We are currently in the phase of conducting pilot testing of TVWS equipment from several hardware providers as well as looking into developing our own.  Several sites in the Quezon City Science Community are being connected, while pilot tests are also being planned for the Visayas and Mindanao within the year.

We are very excited with the development of this new technology. I think we finally have a solution to address the issue of Internet and data connectivity for our citizens living in remote rural areas with no wireless or wired broadband Internet infrastructure. TV White Space’s potentially long-range propagation characteristics, means less base stations are required to provide coverage for a given area as compared to existing wireless technologies, making it more cost effective for broadband as well as narrowband data delivery like those required in the NOAH program.

(Original Closing) Indeed, ICT is an enabler of socio-economic development and therefore the Philippines encourages the support of everyone in developing and adopting similar efforts in ICT infrastructure/s and connectivity issues in order to achieve the full benefits and prosperity that ICT has to offer in terms of advancing economic growth and reducing the digital divide and in the long run, poverty itself. More particularly on this session, ICT can be tapped to provide the “missing link” in our continuous quest for better processes to minimize the negative effects of disasters.

(Alternate closing) ICT has enabled our Government to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, but surprisingly enough, the natural disasters that befall the Philippines on a regular basis are actually the least of our problems. Nagging issues that affect overall socio-economic development like corruption, education, employment and the widening digital divide are all being addressed with programs that have ICT in the forefront are our priorities.  And with natural disasters effectively managed with ICT, we can focus on issues that matter.

Thank you and good day.