By Fred Dabu
This article was originally published by the University of the Philippines (UP ) on January 10, 2018.
Mandated to advance national development and also to help save people’s lives, the University of the Philippines established the UP Resilience Institute (RI) in July 2016, followed by its adoption of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) Center in March 2017 as its core component.
By harnessing the expertise of academics and professionals in the fields of science and technology as well as the arts and humanities, these UP hubs are at the forefront of scientific research and extension work on natural hazards, climate change actions, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and the promotion of disaster resilience in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim.
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world, and minding its many tantrums is the unenviable but vital job of UP’s top disaster scientist, Dr. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay. A faculty member of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), Lagmay also concurrently heads the RI and the NOAH Center.
Dr. Lagmay obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UP and holds a PhD degree in Earth Sciences from the University of Cambridge. He is also an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).
UP RI Executive Director Alfredo Mahar Lagmay speaks to Mayors, Municipal Planners, and Disaster Risk Reduction Officers during the National Rollout and Training-Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP).
Our own backyard
One of the first projects of the RI and the NOAH Center aims to make all UP campuses and communities around the country resilient to climate change and geared for long-term development.
Lagmay explains that UP “must first do it in our own backyard, if we are to get all municipalities to prepare and plan ahead. We can’t preach what we don’t practice. The first step is to do the resilient campuses project so that it can be a model for campuses in the Philippines.” He says that the project uses climate change projections prescribed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific and intergovernmental body under the United Nations.
“We have to translate the projections of climate change into hazard maps that can be used by the UP campuses to plan ahead and to develop. Before we do it for the entire Philippines, we must do it in our backyard first. I’m not saying the campuses are not planned. I’m saying that campuses need to be more resilient and adaptive to the climate change impacts, building resilience, which is relatively a new concept,” Lagmay says.
On October 20, 2017, the UP Padayon Office hosted the UP RI and NOAH Center’s teleconference with representatives from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Baguio, UPLB, UP Mindanao, UP Iloilo and UP Open University.
Probabilistic hazard maps
According to Lagmay, the RI and NOAH have many projects lined up, aside from the resilient UP campuses project. Among these are the completion of climate flood maps for the entire Philippines for the years 2049-2079, and the landslide maps for 2049-2079, based on the representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5 as prescribed by the IPCC.
“We also are producing storm surge hazard maps with climate change projections. Basically, these are multi-scenario, multi-hazard maps. Collectively, they’re called probabilistic hazard maps that get us to understand better the risks involved in planning against hazard impacts. We also have a project on detecting CO2 using low-cost UV cameras, and another on solid waste management,” Lagmay adds.
“We are also proposing to study the interaction of the seas, land, and atmosphere. Because here in the Philippines and in other tropical areas, as well as areas near the equator, it’s very hard to predict weather, and largely that may be due to unknown factors related to the interaction of the sea, ocean, land and atmosphere. That needs to be understood,” he emphasizes.
Dr. Lagmay says that Senator Loren Lagarda wanted the UP Resilience Institute “to lead all the state universities and colleges in helping the Climate Change Commission get the local government units to complete their local climate change action plans.”
OpenStreetMap volunteers at the OpenStreetMap and Grab’s Mapping Party held at the Grab Headquarters in Makati on November 25, 2017. They helped in mapping the building footprints of the UP campuses around the country to aid in the UP Resilient Campuses Project of the UP RI.
He looks forward to completing the abovementioned tasks. “It’s a huge task. But with all the previous projects that we have been engaged in over the past several years—like the 30 mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in 34 municipalities of Leyte and Samar, and the ReBUILD projects in Iloilo and Cagayan—we have learned a lot. And with the proper budget, we can cascade this knowledge through the different UP campuses to the state universities and colleges, so each state university and college can be an information and training hub for their locality.”
This setup will also leverage “the technical expertise of the different faculty members of all of these universities across different sectors: health, infrastructure, energy, environment, biodiversity, tourism, and many other sectors,” Lagmay explains.
Open and shared data
“Disaster risk is an unresolved problem of development. If the communities plan well, if they are smart in developing, putting the structures, the evacuation centers, critical facilities out of harm’s way, or if it’s in harm’s way, knowing what to do to address the problem, you are actually reducing disaster risk. So by reducing disaster risk you are becoming more adaptive and resilient through development planning,” he adds.
This will enable the development of communities nationwide, spurring economic growth and meeting the goals of sustainable development.
But this kind of whole-of-government approach will require open and shared data. “To be able to do all of those things, you need to open up data. You need everybody to have access. And all over the world, that’s where disaster prevention and mitigation are leading. We share to generate more knowledge that’s more powerful to address our problems. If you don’t share the data, if data is kept under control in certain offices, you may compromise opportunity, and that opportunity could be a chance to save lives.”
The Philippines’ South South collaboration on Climate Information and Services between the Climate Change Commission (CCC), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), UP RI, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) was launched on November 23, 2017 at the Sofitel Hotel during the Climate Change Consciousness week. In Photo: Assistant Secretary Evelyn Cruzada, Office of the Cabinet Secretary; Mayor Ronaldo Golez of Dumangas, Iloilo; CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman; Mr. Oscar Lizardo, NOAH Center Information Chief; Ms. Rosalina De Guzman, Chief of the Climate Data section of PAGASA; and Dr. Bjoern Surborg of GIZ.
According to Lagmay, NOAH data can be downloaded via the Internet “preferably by bulk download,” without any preconditions. “If it’s publicly funded, the people should be able to access and take advantage of that information. In time, with the work of NOAH and the UP Resilience Institute, with better education, we can learn to be able to share valuable data that saves people’s lives. That is one of the main goals of UP RI and NOAH,” he said.
He also urges the use of transdiciplinary tools to promote disaster and risk awareness. “Use music, use poetry, use the arts to raise awareness about disasters. Science must be embraced by the people. Because if it gets embraced, its value grows. There’s direct application. Benefits are seen. And for the field of disaster risk reduction, it will mean saving lives and getting communities to develop better, unhampered by natural hazard impacts,” Lagmay concludes.
The General Appropriations Act of 2018 was signed into law last December 19, 2017 and detailed the P3.767 trillion national budget for the year 2018.
The UP Resilience Institute is included in the budget appropriations for the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), which received a 5.79% increase in its budget compared to 2017.
"The University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UP RI), together with other state universities and colleges, shall support the Climate Change Commission in training LGUs to formulate and complete Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAP) and Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plans (CLUDP). The UPRI shall empower LGUs with science-based information and technologies for development planning, such as Climate Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Assessment (CVDRA) and multi-scenario, probabilistic hazard maps."
This echoed Senator Loren Legarda's statement during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the proposed 2018 budgets of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on September 21, 2017.
"If all the SUCs (State Universities and Colleges) will help the LGUs (Local Government Units) in the respective areas, mapapabilis (it will be expedited), we'll finish it by 2018. 'Yan ang target natin (That's our target), but I need a shepherd; I need a lead, and that lead will be UP Resilience Institute. That's part of your mandate. So, may I request UP to lead all other SUCs to help CCCom teach local governments to complete their LCCAPs (Local Climate Change Action Plan)."
UP Diliman, Quezon City -- The 2nd Indie-Siyensya Filmmaking Competition award ceremony took place at Aldaba Hall of the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus last December 5. The competition organized by the Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) “focuses on the promoting of communication of scientific concepts through film platform.” This year, DOST-SEI collaborated with UP College of Mass Communication to emphasize the “value of the audio-visual medium in science education” with the theme "A Portrait of the Filipino as a Scientist."
Two projects won the Best Film award for the Youth and Science & Technology Professional category. Philippine Science High School - Central Luzon students won the Youth category for their film on Nicholas Czar Antonio with the title “Ilusyon” while "Paglabud" (When the Waves Swell) of ThinkConnect.PH won the S&T Professional category for their work focused on Dr. Margie Dela Cruz.
A documentary featuring UP Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) Center Director and UP Resilience Institute Executive Director Mahar Lagmay as a Filipino scientist won the Viewers’ Choice Special Award. Videos for the category were chosen by viewers after they were streamed online from November 27 to December 1.
Photo from DOST-SEI Facebook post.
Members of the UP Academic League of Chemical Engineering Students, Incorporated (UP ALCHEMES, Inc.), a duly registered youth serving organization recognized by the National Youth Commission, filmed the feature documentary conveying the theme “A Portrait of a Filipino Scientist.”
The students invited Dr. Lagmay as a featured scientist, with their recognition of the impacts of Project NOAH not just in the disaster risk reduction and management but in the whole scientific community of our country. Their documentary film explored Dr. Lagmay's career in disaster research which led to his leadership of the UP NOAH Center.
“The program NOAH was designed to gather all of the funded research development projects of the government and put them together. Those that were related to disaster risk reduction, [were put] into operation so that there will be a direct impact of the research to the people that are in need," Dr. Lagmay said.
Novotel Manila Araneta Center, Quezon City — Last December 1 to 8, 2017, in celebration of their 30th anniversary, the DOST Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) held multiple conferences, stakeholders’ forums and a recognition ceremony with the theme TREINTA: Tatlong Dekadang Masulong na Pananaliksik sa Agham at Teknolohiya. Through the Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network (PREGINET) and the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (CoARE), DOST-ASTI has been a partner of UP NOAH since the latter’s conception in 2012. UP NOAH participated in three events: the Philippine Launch of [email protected] Network, the 3rd CoARE Stakeholders’ Meeting and Policy Forum, and the Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Center Stakeholders’ Meeting.
Jay Samuel Combinido of DOST ASTI describing UP NOAH as one of the main users of the CoARE Science Cloud.
As UP NOAH is linked to PREGINET via UP Diliman, it is also linked to [email protected], the successor of the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) project. This enables researchers of UP NOAH to connect to researchers and access data sets around the world through a high speed and high quality network. Notable applications include the download of massive remote sensing data and live streaming of conferences and events.
[email protected] provides a dedicated regional high capacity and high quality network for research and education communities across Asia-Pacific and Europe. As UP Diliman is a partner of the Philippine Research , Education and Government Information Network (PREGINET) of DOST ASTI, UP NOAH is connected to different Research and Education Networks around the globe that allows for collaboration and linkages between international institutions through the Trans Eurasia Information Network (TEIN).
The supervisor of UP NOAH’s WebGIS and Development team, BA Racoma, was also invited to speak about his experiences with CoARE’s Science Cloud in the December 8 forum. Most of UP NOAH’s online assets are hosted in the Science Cloud where our developers conduct processes ranging from automated downloading and processing data, staging of web applications, to the publishing of maps and data to the NOAH website. Products of UP NOAH are also downloadable both via the Science Cloud (http://noah.up.edu.ph/downloads) and the Data Catalogue (http://asti.dost.gov.ph/coare/data/datasets/).
UP NOAH Developer and Researcher, BA Racoma speaking at the CoARE Event on December 8, 2017.
The Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Center's Stakeholder Meeting was another event in the series. There, the project's capabilities were showcased to promote future inter-agency cooperation efforts. These include Rice Monitoring, Forest, Cover Mapping, Change Detection and other technical discussions from remote sensing experts. There were also updates on the Diwata-2 satellite and its numerous applications.
Showcase of the PEDRO Center project, including a replica of the Diwata-2 satellite.
As the core component of the UP Resilience Institute, the UP NOAH Center is thankful for the continued partnership with DOST-ASTI in its efforts to undertake DRR and CCA research to improve the Philippines' resilience.
August 24, 2017 — Experts from two different disciplines shared their knowledge about the words “indie” and “delubyo” in the seminar titled “Mga Susing Salita: Pambansang Seminar sa Pagbuo ng Diskurso sa Konseptong Pilipino” organized by the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino (SWF), headed by its Director, Dr. Rommel B. Rodriguez.
Dr. Rolando B. Tolentino, professor and former Dean of the College of Mass Communication; and Dr. Mahar Lagmay, Executive Director of the UP Resilience Institute and Director of the UP NOAH Center, were the speakers in the said event.
For his part, Dr. Lagmay underscored the importance of “wika” in helping Filipino communities embrace available lifesaving information towards a more resilient nation.
Dr. Lagmay talked about the use of the keyword “delubyo” in efficiently and effectively preventing disasters. According to him, the keyword should be addressed by warning and response. Warning is the responsibility of the government and it needs to be timely, accurate, understandable, and reliable. On the other hand, response means that communities need to do their part to act correspondingly and accordingly upon the warning that the government provides.
Grab UPDate Diliman’s September – October 2017 issue and turn to pages 10 and 11 to read more about this article. UPDate Diliman is the community newspaper of UP Diliman and is published by the UP Diliman Information Office, the public information and communications arm of the University of the Philippines Diliman.