Friday, August 5, 2016

WeatherPhilippines: Empowering Filipinos for a #WeatherWiserNation

Last year, I was introduced to a group called WeatherPhilippines Foundation (WPF). I was invited by this group to attend a forum composed of bloggers and social media influencers to be immersed on what the foundation is all about, and how it complements the weather information dissemination of our current national weather bureau – PAGASA.  For those who missed reading that, here is the link. And for those who have not time to read it, let me just share a short context about what WPF is. 

My first engagement with WPF last year at Anvia Cove, Bataan
WeatherPhilippines is a non-profit organization initiated by Aboitiz Foundation, Union Bank, and the MeteoGroup, which provides a premier weather sensing and forecasting system through satellite weather stations mounted in strategic locations across the country. These state-of-the-art weather equipment deliver more localized and accurate data which can be access through a mobile (free) app or via the WPF website, www.weather.com.ph . 

WPF's #weatherwiser Social Media conference at Robinson's Summit Hotel at Cebu
I attended a media conference in Cebu last week organized by WeatherPhilippines, which highlighted how social media influencers like us can maximize our individual networks and reach to get the message across to our readers and followers. The conference also emphasized how to create the proper channels and tools that will create a significant impact to the lives of people in communities that are greatly affected by our country’s erratic weather changes.

Ms. Kaye Rosario-Sangalang, WPF's Sustainability Manager
As part of the program, Ms. Kaye Rosario-Sangalang, WPF’s Sustainability Manager, inspired the participants by her presentation about the realities of how people living in disaster stricken areas are always in a “reactive” mode whenever a typhoon comes -- a culture that is so evident in many Filipinos in the grassroots level. Such trait is also undeniably true with the heads of the LGUs, particularly the mayors, who often decide to cancel classes right after the students are already in transit to school and are trapped in the street floods. More often than not, this “reactive” attitude would come a little too late, eventually leading to more damaging consequences.  

Teachers and Representatives from Department of Education of Cebu
However, their indecisiveness cannot be solely blamed on the community’s stubbornness to evacuate and the incompetence of the mayor, since their basis would also come from what was officially announced by the weather bureau. Unfortunately, PAGASA’s forecast covers a macro-scale weather status that extends to several provinces and, oftentimes, varies in strength of weather disturbances from town to town.  A more realistic scenario would be that the effect of a storm signal number two of one city may not be as true to another city which covers the same storm signal. 

Participants of WP's #weatherwiser Social Media conference
This is where WPF’s Weather Stations become very effective because each one covers a radius of 15 kilometers of localized weather condition. Each weather station is equipped with Ultra-sonic Sensor that accurately measures Wind speed, wind direction, Temperature, Atmospheric pressure, humidity and global solar radiation. It also has a gauge that measures rain fall in millimeters.   The station likewise features a data logger which processes and transmits data to an international weather service provider called MeteoGroup. These processed data will be then sent back to weather.com.ph as local weather forecast. 

WeatherPhilippines Foundation's Automated Weather Stations (AWS)
Currently, through the support of its private partners and sponsors, WPF has already deployed more than 780 weather stations all over the archipelago. These weather stations are being manned by their partners on the ground such as the LGUs and malls. As part of the partnership agreement, mall management or LGU administrations, particularly the provincial or the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council offices, are expected to man the weather stations which are mounted in an LGU building structure. The minimal management required is to keep the devices intact and free from weeds or vines that may grew over time and may disrupt weather signals and, in some areas where AWS is not yet fully solar-powered, to keep the devices plugged in on a wall outlet. 

The Provincial Capitol of Cebu
Generally, the management of WPF’s partners, mostly the private mall management, are relatively efficient. However, not all implementing partners are the same. Out of 780 weather stations running, around 20 of these which are managed by LGUs, failed to fulfill its agreement of the minimal supervision they are requested to do thereby resulting to disruption of data transmission, which are valuable for an accurate weather forecast.  

Don Ramon Aboitiz
A technology such as this is something that government agencies should look into and consider partnering with. With a localized accurate weather forecast, agencies such as Department of Agriculture can then effectively provide accurate weather information for farmers that will affect the schedule of harvest. The Philippine Coast Guard can give timely weather reports to coastal fishing communities, giving them better understanding if it is safe to go out to the open sea to catch fish. Regional offices of the Department of Education can be empowered to take it upon themselves, if the weather merits, to cancel classes in their own localities. 

A very nice weather for a day tour in Cebu
I believe other agencies will also find it useful in their day to day operations because the weather, whether we like it or not, affects all of us. Ultimately, a community that has full awareness of its environment has the capacity to make well-informed and sound judgments to do the appropriate actions in making a better and safer community, and a #WeatherWiserNation. 

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