Senate Bill on free text alerts ahead of disasters hurdles third reading
MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos living in calamity-prone areas may soon start getting free text alerts ahead of disasters after the Senate passed on Monday a bill requiring telecommunications companies to send free alert messages to warn the public.
The Senate passed on third reading after a vote of 20-0 Senate bill no. 353 or the “Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act.”
Section 4 of the bill states that: “In the event of an impending tropical storm, typhoon, tsunami, or other calamities, mobile phone service providers are mandated to send out alerts at regular intervals as required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and
Seismology (Phivolcs) and other relevant agencies.”
“The alerts shall consist of up-to-date information from the relevant agencies, and shall be sent directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas,” it said.
The alerts have to be free of charge for consumers, the bill states.
“The alerts shall include contact information of local government units and other agencies required to respond to the situation. The alerts may contain other relevant information such as, but not limited to, evacuation areas, relief sites and pick-up points,” it said.
In a statement, Senate President Franklin Drilon hopes the free message alerts will “help create an effective early warning system that will help achieve the main objectives of our national disaster preparedness strategy, which is to lessen the impact of incoming disasters, and ultimately save precious lives and valued property.”
Drilon said the government must employ the most efficient and fastest methods of informing the public on impending calamities, such as tropical storms, tsunamis or earthquakes, hence the use of mobile phone technology.
“As the texting capital of the world, we can greatly use the instantaneous, flexible and reliable short message service (SMS) technology as a potent tool during disaster situations – one that is intimately understood and easily accessed by millions of Filipinos who have cell phones,” Drilon said.
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