Manila, Philippines: The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), Philippines, urged the Senate to fund a GIS for the country and a spatial data infrastructure to make the disaster simulations possible. They believe that the GIS can be a more reliable preparedness programme. Hence, they presented an PHP 8-billion (PHP: Philippine Peso) proposal for a high resolution satellite imaging of the country’s terrain to boost the government’s risk and disaster management plan.
Mapping agency chief Peter Tiangco said proactive approach in disaster management cannot be achieved without a GIS to simulate earthquake, typhoon, flood, landslide and other risk factors.
Civil Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos said the government uses dated topographic and geologic data as basis for critical studies to implement a nationwide mitigation plan. “(The only geologic) studies are only available in Surigao provinces and these were obtained from mining companies operating there,” Ramos added.
Tiangco said maps currently available were based on cartography surveys done 50 years ago when so many natural and man made alterations have happened to accurately depict the topography and geologic state of cities and municipalities.
Ramos said that topographic features in the national cartography have been updated using satellites (Global positioning system) but such an update was inadequate to predict geologic behaviours that may occur during natural disasters.
“As simple as the rising seal levels, we are guessing now in our identification of low-lying areas because those that were high and dry last year becomes under water, with devastating effect, the next year,” he said.
GPS can ascertain where exactly rivers and mountains and other features are situated but elevations, depths and other intrinsic features of the country’s terrain have to be surveyed and computed manually.
“It’s a tedious process and with the rate of climate change and natural disasters hitting the country every year, surveys get to be over taken by events and instantly get outdated,” he said.
Tiangco stated river siltation alone would be crucial in estimating amount of flooding that can occur that accurate data were critical. “We’re not talking about natural siltation, we have to factor in millions of tons of garbage finding its way into water systems. Liquefaction is also an important phenomenon we need to watch out for to guess where the next landslide will come. All of that, multiplied by forest denudation and how fast these things happen are very important for us to know,” Tiangco observed.