Introducing Community Based Warning System in the Philippines Jessie C. Felizardo1 1 Flood Control and Sabo Engineering Center, Department of Public Works and Highways, Philippines, email: email@example.com Background Philippine Environmental Setting Vulnerability to Disaster The geology, topography, climate and geographical location of the Philippines make it one of the most disastrous countries in the world. It consists of 7,100 islands with a total land area of approximately 300,000 km2. The climate of the country is influenced by the numerous mountains, valleys, and the surrounding seas. It is bounded by the South China Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east. It is often visited by an average of 20 typhoons annually, with mean precipitation of approximately of 2,100 mm intensified by the southwest and northeast monsoons. The terrains are mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands stretching to 34,600 km. There are 421 principal rivers with catchment area of at least 40 km2. 22 out of 200 volcanoes along the volcanic belt are considered active. High vulnerability of human settlements to floods, flashfloods and landslides in major rivers exists as communities occupy river deltas, alluvial fans and river valley floors bounded by steep mountain slopes. The Philippines is in dire economic crisis for so many decades. Economic growth for 2005 grew only 5.1% below the target of 5.3% to 6.3% while the population growth rate is at 2.36%. These figures fell short to make significant inroad into high poverty and unemployment. Livelihood and job opportunities in the country sides are heavily affected by economic and political situations giving rise to unresolved insurgencies involving different renegade groups for almost a half century. For refuge and safety, rural affected dwellers venture to cities and other urban communities which congest the Metropolis overtime. Costly property and immediate necessity for shelters have placed them in risky areas such as river banks, underneath the bridge, garbage dumpsites, and etc. Introduction Government Strategy The government current thrust inclines towards building and maintenance of roads, bridges, light rail transits among others, leaving meager budget for disaster countermeasures. Infrastructure investments are distributed to 47.4 % for roads, 11.2 % for flood control, 0.2% for engineering and others, and 41.1% for various infrastructures. Out of these investments, 42% are foreign assisted. Foreign assisted flood control projects are package based for a certain river basin, leaving the high risk areas unattended. In light of disaster mitigation, holistic approach is remote possibility due to huge money involved; hence, prioritization of approaches is necessary. Previous studies for flood mitigation were focused on the major river basins prioritizing those with high economic importance and most prone to floods and cities and areas with history of heavy damages and loss of lives. Reactive strategies prevailed with this set up. However, in recent years, extreme weather conditions have brought heavy toll to some eastern seaboard provinces: Camiguin Island Disaster 2001, Quezon-Aurora Tragedy 2004, Leyte Tragedy 2003 and 2006, etc. These areas are characterized by steep river with short reaches from the alluvial fan to the mouth. The events prompted the leaders to draw out plans to integrate different approaches. Early Initiatives Early warning systems in Luzon northern part of the Philippines are telemetered type, financed through foreign assistance. These are in the Pampanga, Agno, Bicol and Cagayan River Basins (abbreviated as PABC) built in the 1980s, under the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), weather agency of the country. The system is associated with the dam operations. Additional telemetered system, the Effective Flood Control Operation System (EFCOS) for Metro-Manila river basins, was built and expanded in 1993 and 2001, respectively. This is mainly for flood control structure operations supervised by Metro-Manila Development Authority (MMDA). It is envisioned that forecasting and warning system will cover also the central and southern part of the country. As the telemetered systems are financed through loan or grant, the designs are by the foreign consultants using foreign technology adopted locally. The rapid technological evolution has outpaced the system within few years of operation. Major components wear out while the parts break down or are stolen in the field. Sustainable operation can not be ensured unless these parts are available. Procurement of the same specification would entail higher price since production stopped and special fabrication from abroad is required. There Source : PAGASA will be operation gaps until such time budget becomes available and the needed parts are shipped in. Otherwise, the only alternative is to overhaul the system with new technology or abandon it. Purpose Present Government Thrust Ideally, vulnerable groups or those at risk are relocated to safer places requiring big budgets to acquire lands, provide shelters along with the provisions for livelihood, hospitals, schools, markets, and etc., to meet their daily subsistence. Alternative feasible approaches in lieu of long term relocation are preferred applying scientific knowledge with ready available indigenous low technology. Due to the spate of disasters in the recent years, different strategies were formulated by different agencies of the government. Action plans include 1) mapping the natural hazards, 2) conducting information-education campaign, and 3) establishing community- based early warning system. In the year 2004 to 2005, due to budget difficulties and moratorium in foreign borrowing, the recent approach geared to non-structural disaster mitigation measures. Methodology Community based early warning system is prioritized over structural measures in some cases due to financial consideration. One example is the JICA assisted project in the Province of Camiguin, under the Department of Public Works and Highways, even though feasibility study for structural measures was completed a year ahead. Another case is countermeasures for Quezon, which was devastated by flashfloods and landslides in November 2004. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) in coordination with PAGASA, and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-DENR) established a project for the strengthening the Disaster Preparedness Capacities to Geologic and Meteorological Hazards of the municipalities of Real, Infanta and General Nakar, Quezon (REINA Project). One of the components was the early warning system. Parallel activities of PAGASA aside from the above, initiatives are on-going or completed with the cooperation of the local government units. These projects are shown on the shaded portions on the map: 1. Allied Rivers of Agno –those areas not covered by the telemetered system. 2. The Province of Bulacan, sub-basin of Pampanga River System. 3. Dumangas, Iloilo 4. Part of Peñaranda River Basin, Nueva Ecija, Region III Another milestone of similar endeavor with duration of four years is the Collective Strengthening of Community Awareness on Natural Disasters (CSCAND) under UNDP funding. Phivolcs engages in volcano, ground rupture, liquefaction, ground shaking, and tsunami hazards; PAGASA in flood and storm surge hazards; and MGB in flood and landslide hazards. Short-term and immediate priority area, covered under the project Hazards Mapping and Assessment for Effective Community-based Disaster Risk Management (READY) covers Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte for 2006 and the remaining 19 provinces in the identified Philippine Eastern Seaboard provinces within three years after. Please refer to the map. However, continuing activities are expected to cover the entire country after the completion of this project. The costs for the putting up of the system are relatively low ranging from US$1,700 to 50,000, depending on the density of the gauges (with the exception of Camiguin Island costing around US$155,000, JICA grant). Establishing a viable warning system for communities at risk requires components interacting with each other. In the design of the system for each project common activities can be noted forming a chain of components. The essential links consist of the following: Interviews and Consultations Interviews and consultation with the affected barangaysa determine the awareness and preparedness level, knowledge on mitigation measures and warning systems, response capacity, and the interest, support and participation and willingness in the undertaking. Data Gathering and Analysis Data through survey (social, institutional, assessment for rain gauge and water level sites, warning and evacuation studies) are culled and collated from different sites and past studies or documents. Consultations and surveys help determine the felt needs of the community and set the tone for the design of the system accordingly. Information on demographic distribution, the cultural practices and belief, the institutional structures and responsibilities, the technical-know-how and educational attainment are important parameters. On the physical parameters, the following are considered river length, terrain, vegetation, built- up areas, roads, ground elevations and others. Hazard Mapping Different hazards have different maps, which include the level of risk and vulnerability of the locality. Maps are essential for land use planning, disaster preparedness, identification and prescribing remedial measures to flood and other hazards. Preparation for the formulation of the early warning and identification of safe places for evacuation for community requires sensible maps. Multi-hazard is currently formulated and harmonized by different agencies (Phivolcs, PAGASA, MGB, NAMRIA) to avoid confusion for public use. However, in specific area where warning system is underway, mapping may be preliminary and finalized later according to the harmonization process. Setup of Monitoring and Warning Systems Monitoring and warning systems normally consist of rain and water level gauges, and communication equipment. Alongside with the hardware is the procedures for monitoring debris and flood monitoring. Monitoring manuals are essential as reference for training and as guides not only for the present but also for future observers and other users. Improvised locally manufactured instruments are used in the field, such as tipping bucket or any direct rainfall measuring instrument with human intervention. Rainfall gauges are placed in school yards, within municipal government premises, hospital compounds, and other strategic public places. Water level gauges are normally staff gauges or marker on the pier of bridges, on concrete or hard river embankment. Graduated flood markers are also painted on the peculiar places in the communities as compliment to the system. Philippines can not afford radar-derived rainfall estimates. Thus, the observers on site monitor the hydro-meteorological element normally at the announcement approaching tropical disturbance by PAGASA. Different indicators are set per location, such as stages for alert, monitoring, preparatory, and evacuation depending on the rainfall intensities and flood stages. a Small administrative unit in the municipality Status of rain and water stage at designated central monitoring stations is relayed for the decision makers. Usually, the central stations are barangay or municipal halls, where decision making, the standby patrol, warning instruments are based. Communications are through two way hand held radio systems or cell phones. Warnings are given through the church bells, small bells (or batingting) located in the barangay centers, megaphones, sirens and public address systems. Relaying the message to the affected constituents is by roaming on horseback, motorcycles or vehicles. In Camiguin Island, bandilyo is used through word of mouth by the roaming staff of the barangays relaying the message from place to place. Formulation of warning and evacuation criteria The critical rainfall and flood level triggers procedures for evacuation. Critical levels and the lead time are determined by modeling and/or established through experience. It is significant that warnings and advisories are acceptable, accurate and timely. Otherwise, the credibility of the system will be at stake. The established parameters as observed in the field may be one of the bases for the decision making. During evacuation drills, some trends can be derived on the route and movement of the people, the concerns, the basic needs, the means to usher people, the proximity, the features and the capacity of the center. Gender, age and physical capability are also considered. In rapids or in steep rivers, where flash floods usually occur, the lead time is very short. It is imperative that the information be given promptly to the right group. Time motion intensive activities and simulations can prepare the people in the actual calamity. Redundant or series of exercises will help imbibed the necessary procedures. Criteria are designed and fined tune to specific sites, which may vary from place to place. Information, Education and Communication Campaign Information, education and communication campaign empowers the constituency by raising their awareness, familiarizing them with the introduced system layout and give them direction. Series of trainings and regular drills are simulated on hazard monitoring, warning and evacuation, system and procedures, disaster simulation drills, formulation of disaster prevention plan to enhance the capability of the community. Workshops are held in different barangays, public places and municipal halls. Leaflets for various groups and stakeholders, bill boards on conspicuous places, manuals in vernacular tongue, are produced. Complimentary activities require development of public awareness materials (warning boards and signages, information boards, posters, and pamphlets) Integration of disaster awareness to school curricula of is also practiced to help prepare the children. Visit also to PAGASA and other national government agencies dealing with disaster mitigations are also encouraged. The activities expose the children to the activities and roles of different agencies and the science and technology relating to climatic and natural calamities. Establish Self-sufficiency of the Community During Calamity Memorandum of Agreement is normally signed between the Local Government Units as the receiving parties and the national agencies which initiated the project, stipulating the operation and maintenance of the system. During the time of calamity, the local government is expected to operate independently given the training, technology transfer, drills and the equipment with intervention from the national government as the case arise. Technical assistance is also provided by the national government in terms of training, analysis, repair and modification of equipment and sometimes additional budget. In the case of Agno Allied Rivers, data are transmitted to PAGASA flood forecasting branch and analyzed and disseminated to municipalities. Common Issues To Address For Effective System Communication Noises Some concerns of the people at risk may interfere with the immediate response with the warning, e.g., whereabouts of the household members, their belongings and properties, and others. Elucidating them the necessity to act in time will save their lives. Another significant point to consider is the reduction of warning sounds during heavy downpour. Church bells during normal weather condition can reach a kilometer radius, however, during heavy downpour, the sound coverage, not only of the bells but also of other warning devices could be lesser. When storms occur at night, those at risk may be difficult to provoke. In this case patrol should ensure that all the residents are given proper warning. Mobility of Foot Patrol The movement of the patrol carrying out warning to reach far flung areas is constraint sometimes by the flood level and the condition of the terrain. To ensure that warning will cover the area at risk and avoid the negligence of groups, the high risk areas should be vacated once advisory of signal becomes available. Attachment to the Place Affinity to the place or cultural heritage can hinder the movement to safer place. In the case of Barangays Magatas and Catmon, just adjacent to Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, where the landslide buried the whole community last February, 2006, the residents at the foot of the mountain refused to leave even though the cracks are evident for impending landslides. The reason is that, aside from little awareness of the mechanism of disaster, they can not find livelihood elsewhere. Sustainability of the Warning System Under the Local Officials The change of administration or terms of the local officials lasting for only three years, may have reduced the effectiveness of the operation and maintenance due to lessened familiarity of the succeeding officials. Commitment of the community despite the change of guard should ensure the sustainability of the system. Contingency plan will be needed to ensure continuity even when key staff members leave. Support for New Local Innovation Recently an automated monitoring system (AMS) which relays hydro-meteorological information from the field was innovated by University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Geological Sciences Geologist Dr. Carlo Primo David and computer engineering students Ardin Lopez, Von Padlan, and Allan Malunes, Don Bosco Technical College. Housed in a silver waterproof box as big as a suitcase, the AMS can also monitor water and air temperature, river flow rates and water turbidity. The recorded data are sent straight from the field to a cell phone as a text message. The Automated Monitoring System costs at a cheap amount of US$385 (P20,000). However, this system is not yet acquired by any government agency at the moment even though demonstrated to them in several occasions. Assessment of the Community Based Warning System Evaluating the success of the community based warning system in terms of the safety of the residents is too early to date because some are in the process of setting up while the others have not experienced major floods. However, the level of awareness and alertness of the people are raised, community participation and voluntarism are encouraged, and the community rapport is developed. Comparison with and without warning system Last February 17, 2006, after a two week rainfall, landslide in Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, buried around 1,400 casualties. There was no official warning from the authorities; however, it was reported by the natives a month prior to the incident that cracks along the slope were evident. The information was relayed to the barangay captain but was ignored for unclear reason. Natives with sufficient money for transportation fled. In less than a month, landslide occurred in Tubaon and Taragona, Davao Oriental. PAGASA gave warning of possible incidences of flash floods and landslides due to frequent rains. The mayor ordered the police and village leaders not to allow residents to the town, after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau warned that the area is unstable because of continuous heavy rains. Evacuations were carried out right after the warning and as a result there was no casualty. These exemplify the scientific intervention in analyzing the situation and relaying the information to the affected communities by the local officials. Conclusion In light of the current socio-economic and environmental conditions in the country, self sufficient and sustainable community based approaches to disaster mitigation should be pursued with vigor. Low cost and indigenous technology based on scientific knowledge in contextual environment is more appropriate than adopting high end technology which necessitates costly acquisition, operation and maintenance. Replication of the successful native early warning system established in some areas in the country can be fine tuned to suit specific locations. Information dissemination through formal and non-formal channels coupled with drills should elucidate the what, where, when, how and why of disaster mitigation with the aim to assimilate the concept and practice in their localities. References ADB’s outlook for the Philippines, Asian Development Outlook 2006, from http://www.adb.org/Documents/Books/ADO/2006/documents/phi.pdf. Retrieved April 10, 2006. Department of Public Works and Highways, Basic Study for Non-Structural Disaster Prevention Measures for the Province of Camuiguin, Philippines, Final Report, 2004 Department of Public Works and Highways 2003, Study for the Preparation of Flood Control Manual for Department of Public Works and Highways Technical Standards and Guidelines, Final Report, Main Report Volume 1, Philippines. Japan International Cooperation Agency and Department of Public Works and Highways, Water and Floods, A Look at Philippine Rivers and Flood Mitigation Efforts, March 2004. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Community-Based Flood Mitigation Management Program (CBFMMP) for the Province of Bulacan, 2006. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Community-based Flood Forecasting and Warning System (CBFFWS) In the Allied Rivers of Agno, 2005. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Establishment of a Community-Based Flood Management Program (CBFMP), 2005. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Strengthening the Disaster Preparedness Capacities of the Municipalities of Real, Infanta and Nakar, Quezon Province, Philippines to Geologic and Meteorological Hazards (REINA), Summary Report, 2006.