Thursday, July 15, 2010

PNoy parties as Basyang rips through Metro Manila

In 2009, after Typhoon Ondoy, there was a hearing in the Philippine Senate where Pagasa made its case for the acquisition of Doppler Radar Systems that would help improve the accuracy of its weather predictions.  

With the systems having been procured and installed, it would now be reasonable enough to expect that Pagasa would now be able to warn people about the direction and strength of an approaching typhoon.

However, Typhoon Basyang has shown that Pagasa -- despite having better equipment -- still couldn't make an accurate prediction about the approaching typhoon.  It had said that Basyang would not hit Metro Manila and it did. 
At present, PAGASA has two radars with upgraded Doppler capabilities, one in Baler and another in Baguio. But the Baler radar has a blind spot to the east because of the Sierra Madre mountains while the Baguio radar cannot cover Metro Manila. This means PAGASA is only making do with the information from these radars and from old radars.
By August, the agency hopes the upgraded Doppler radar in Subic would be completed. This radar would cover Metro Manila. By September, PAGASA said it would see the completion of the upgrade of radars in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur; Tampakan, North Cotabato; Cebu and Tagaytay. The last radar station would have the capability to cover Metro Manila.

As expected, Pagasa explained away the error, pointing out kinks in its weather prediction model as well as gaps in our country's Doppler Radar system (we only have two and one has a blindspot).

However, the thing is, blaming the weatherman for making a mistake in predicting the weather is CLICHE and PNoy made great friends with this CLICHE with gusto.

The thing is, the island of Luzon is such a narrow target that predicting the path of a typhoon is like predicting whether an elephant can walk through a narrow corridor without breaking anything.

The point is, typhoons are notoriously treacherous and in the face of such a beast, it pays to be overly prudent.

In the crucial hours before the typhoon, PNoy was said to have been partying with Palace reporters.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV
It didn’t take much prodding from reporters for President Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III to grab the microphone and sing Tuesday night.
At a dinner with Palace reporters, Aquino dished out two songs — Florante’s “Handog" and Dennis Lambert’s “Of All the Things" — before some 150 reporters, MalacaƱang staff, and white-clad members of the Presidential Security Group.
Aquino intended to sing the Dennis Lambert hit only, but shouts of “More! More!" prompted him to take the stage again for a second number.
“Alam niyo last time niyo ko pinakanta binanatan ako ng mga limang kolumnista (The last time you made me sing, about five columnists criticized me)," Aquino told reporters in jest.
Members of the audience gamely joined him in singing Florante’s immortal lines: “Tatanda at lilipas din ako/ Nguni't mayrong awiting / Iiwanan sa inyong ala-ala / Dahil, minsan, tayo'y nagkasama."
It wasn’t the first time Aquino entertained the crowd with his singing. 
At his inaugural street party last June 30, the President sang Michel Legrand’s 1960s hit “Watch What Happens" and Freddie Aguilar's 1980s hit “Estudyante Blues" before an audience of 120,000.
The dinner took place a few hours before Metro Manila was lashed by strong winds brought by Typhoon Basyang which, according to government reports as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, killed 18 people.
Aquino was visibly worried about the possible impact of the cyclone during the social function. He was asking his staff for updates and telling reporters on the sidelines about his government’s preparation plans for high-risk areas.

Knowing that Pagasa makes errors in predicting the path of Typhoons, PNoy ought to have been at the helm of the NDCC hours before the typhoon hits, instead of partying with Palace reporters.

Anyway, apart from Pagasa, we also have to strengthen our Coast Guard and Navy.  Apart from Doppler radar systems, we need to operationalize a nationwide tracking system that would show us exactly where all Philippine vessels are at any given time.

(Maybe more later, on the same topic.)

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