PNoy signs law on free SMS disaster alerts

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 28 2014 09:29 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2014 05:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Telecommunications companies are now required to send text messages to millions of cellular phone subscribers – free of charge – about threats of impending calamities.

President Aquino has signed into law Republic Act 10639 or the “Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act,” which compels telecommunications firms to “send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities.”

The new law was signed by Aquino last June 20, after the House of Representatives passed it on Feb. 10 and the Senate on May 5.

The Department of Transportation and Communications,
the National Telecommunications Commission, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council

(NDRRMC) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) were given 60 days to submit its implementing rules and regulations.

“In the event of an impending tropical storm, tsunami or other calamities, mobile phone service providers are mandated to send out alerts at regular intervals as required by the NDRRMC, PAGASA, Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology) and other relevant agencies,” a portion of the law reads.

“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,” the new law states.

The alerts should include contact information of LGUs 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.”

The alerts may be in the form of short message services, MMS or email.

Companies that will be found to have violated RA 10639 will be fined “not less than P1 million but not more than P10 million and/or suspension or revocation of its legislative franchise and other permits and licenses by the NTC.”

“The maximum penalties prescribed shall also be imposed on the members of the board and/or management,” the measure warned.

Persons who will be found responsible for hoax messages will be “punished with imprisonment of not less than two months but not more than six months, and with a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P10,000.”

If the false or misleading information is given under oath, the maximum penalty for giving false testimony or perjury will be imposed.