PAGASA to revamp weather forecasts with focus on impact

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2019 10:48 AM | Updated as of Nov 20 2019 01:07 PM

Children huddle under an umbrella as intense rains and strong winds batter Mandaluyong City on August 9, 2019. Larry Monserate Piojo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Philippines' weather agency is spending up to $20 million (P1 billion) to remodel its forecasts to focus more on the impact of storms, such as floods, landslides and storm surges, an official said.

The "impact-based forecasting" will be piloted in 4 areas that bore the brunt of some of the deadliest and most destructive typhoons in recent years: Tuguegarao City, Legazpi City, Palo in Leyte and New Bataan in Davao de Oro, said Thelma Cinco, chief of PAGASA's impact assessment and applications section.

It will be the first project to be funded by the UN-backed Green Climate Fund, which contributed $10 million. The Philippine government, through PAGASA, will draw another $10 million from its own modernization budget.

"The goal is to shift from this weather-based paradigm to one that focuses on forecasting impacts," Cinco told reporters.

"By giving the potential impacts of a hazard, disaster management agencies, local governments, and the general public will have a better understanding of the risk and will more likely conduct early actions and early response," she said.

The reworked forecasts will focus on flooding in Tuguegarao and Legazpi, both located on the country's Pacific coast where typhoons typically form, she said.

Palo, hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, will be monitored for storm surges, while New Bataan, ravaged by Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012, will be checked for landslides, she said.

The Multi-Hazard Impact-Based Forecasting and Early Warning System or MH-IBF-EWS will focus on "what the weather will do," she said.

The GCF, set up through the United Nations Climate Change Conference, seeks to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

While PAGASA has a "good and accurate" early warning system, "it is not being acted upon," said Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman, head of the Climate Change Commission.

"Now we’ll have protocols from PAGASA that the local government units and communities will have to implement," he said.

Citing climate projections, Cinco said the Philippines would experience more extreme rainfall and more intense tropical cyclones.

Other agencies and groups participating in the project include Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), World Food Programme (WFP).