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Senate bill taps telcos to send disaster alerts

Posted at | Updated as of 05/06/14 4:00 AM

MANILA - The country's telecommunication companies will be required to send early warnings, alerts, or other relevant information during disasters, under a bill that the Senate approved on third and final reading on Monday.

House Bill No. 353, or the "Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act," was unanimously approved with 20 affirmative votes.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a press statement, said if passed into law, the bill would "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."

Under the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, which was endorsed by the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., mobile subscribers will receive the warnings at no cost to the government and the public.

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.

"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 cellphones," said Drilon.

He cited a Business Monitor International (BMI) study that says the Philippines is expected to have 117 million mobile subscribers by 2016.

Under the bill, mobile alerts will consist of up-to-date information from relevant agencies working on disaster management. The alerts will be sent directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas.