By Nacho Domingo
“The trick to avoiding disaster is to catch it on the rise,” Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment on Hazards) Executive Director Dr. Alfredo Lagmay said during his talk on the Department of Science and Technology’s disaster prevention and mitigation system, Aug. 23 at the UP Diliman National Institute of Geological Sciences.
In light of Project NOAH’s fourth year of operation as a nationwide program aimed at propagating ideal disaster awareness and preparation throughout the Philippines, Lagmay delivered a series of lectures entitled “Four Years of Project NOAH and its Future.”
“Access to data actually builds further knowledge to address the disaster problem of the country,” Lagmay said.
The executive director also pointed out the project’s main mission, helping to “warn” Filipinos of imminent natural disasters, particularly floods, and to subsequently “respond” to these naturally occurring phenomenon in order to ensure their safety.
With technology such as hazard maps that are “hazard-specific, time-bound and area-focused” and hydromet sensors, among others, Project NOAH provides a probabilistic approach to imminent hazards, said Lagmay.
This not only helps in averting disasters, Lagmay added, but also gives Filipinos the empowerment they were lacking during recent occurrences of natural crises, particularly typhoons Ondoy, Pablo, and Yolanda.
Project NOAH’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the program has been recognized 15 times in the span of four years, and winning nine international awards in the process.
Despite this, Lagman asserts that the future of the program has not been set in stone, with issues regarding salary for scientists and a lack of a steady career path for well-trained researchers hindering the program from full-on sustainability for the years to come
“In 2015, four months hindi sinwueldo yung mga bata. In 2016, five months hindi sinwueldo yung mga bata […] and I can’t be held responsible for that anymore,” said Lagmay.
“Kailangan ang NOAH, hindi pwede program na project[-based] lang, very liable to the whims of the administration,” he added.
Furthermore, the use of the project funds is not in the control of the program team, Lagmay said.
Nevertheless, Lagmay asserted the importance of the program in promoting the safety and empowerment of the Filipino people.
“We need to support our scientists. They are our future,” he said. “Learning never stops. That is why Project NOAH should never stop.”
While the future of Project NOAH might not be smooth sailing from here on out, what is clear is Lagmay and his team will never relent in their efforts to bring about a disaster-free Philippines.