Monday, 28 September 2009

New radars to upgrade PAGASA forecasts

Darwin T Wee

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Department of Science and Technology is speeding up its Doppler radar installation program to upgrade the forecasting capabilities of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Science and Technology Secretary Estrella F. Alabastro told BusinessWorld during a visit here that the heavy rains brought by storm "Ondoy" which innundated Luzon caught them by surprise. "These Doppler radars will help us forecast approaching typhoons and storms, so we can better forewarn our people," she said.

Ms. Alabastro said the Japanese government, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is giving P1.6 billion for three Doppler radars in Aparri, Cagayan; Virac, Catanduanes; and Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

In addition, Japan has also allocated P600 million for the monitoring of water levels in Luzon and another P300 million for dam operations.

She said the country’s only two existing radar systems, in Baler, Quezon and in Baguio City, would be upgraded.

Two Doppler radars will be installed soon in Mindanao, specifically in the provinces of Surigao del Sur and South Cotabato.

"By 2011, the idea is to have 12 Doppler radars," she said. The Arroyo administration, Ms. Alabastro said, has also set aside money for radars in Subic, Tagaytay, and Cebu, while Taiwan has contributed air monitoring facilities and automatic weather stations. "We are getting active infusion of resources not only from our government but also from foreign sources."

Ms. Alabastro said these radar systems are crucial since the country is visited by an average of 20 typhoons and storms annually. "Ondoy is our 15th, and we expect five more typhoons before the year ends," she said.

She said her office has sent people to train in Taiwan and is now arranging with Korea, Japan, and the US for future data sharing.

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