Monday, May 5, 2014

Senate passes mobile alert bill, telcos tapped to send warnings during disasters

MANILA-The Senate passed today on third and final reading a bill that would require the country’s telecommunication companies (Telcos) to send out early warning alerts or other relevant information during times of disasters, as part of the government’s efforts to further improve its national disaster prevention strategy. 

House Bill No. 353, or the “Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act,” was approved with  20 affirmative votes zero negative vote and zero abstention.

Once the bill is enacted into law, Senate President Franklin Drilon said it 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."

The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, which was endorsed by the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., mandates telecommunication companies to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities. 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, 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 cellphones," said Drilon, who pointed out a Business Monitor International (BMI) study, where the Philippines is expected to reach 117 million mobile subscribers by 2016.

Under the bill, the alerts shall consist of updated information from relevant agencies working on disaster management and shall be transmitted directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the Senate also passed HBN 3187, a bill granting franchise to the Cotabato Light and Power Company to operate and maintain the distribution system for electric power to Cotabato City and other municipalities of Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao. The bill was also sponsored by Revilla.

Drilon explained that the Senate’s approval of the franchise is “part of the government’s continuing efforts to secure stable and sustainable source of power for citizens in parts of Mindanao, long troubled by power outages and other similar issues.”

“We are hoping that the Cotabato Light and Power Company can adequately serve the needs of those living in the area. We will be monitoring their progress, so that the electrical requirements of the people of Mindanao can be adequately and sufficiently met,” Drilon said. 


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