Where were telcos during storm—Poe

SENATOR Grace Poe wants to find out why disaster agencies and telecommunication companies failed to send mobile disaster alerts to effectively warn residents of the impacts of Super Typhoon ‘‘Lawin’’ (international name: ‘‘Haima’’) that pummelled provinces in northern Luzon Wednesday.

Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 211 seeking explanation from implementing agencies and telcos on possible lapses even though Republic Act No. 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are already in place.

“Such failure goes against the objective of the law to ensure the immediate dissemination of useful, timely, and relevant information to help our people prepare for natural disasters,” Poe said.

Poe said she received information from residents in the areas affected by the super typhoon that they were not able to receive alerts on their mobile phones before ‘‘Lawin’’ struck. 

Under the law’s IRR, in the event of impending calamities, mobile phone service providers are mandated to send out emergency alerts at regular intervals, but such did not happen during the onslaught of ‘‘Lawin.’’

The law was signed on June 20, 2014 and its IRR issued last July 21, 2015.

“Our countrymen deserve to know who should be accountable for lapses in the release of mobile alerts on Typhoon ‘‘Lawin,’’ which could leave residents unprepared for the onslaught of the disaster,” stressed Poe

Poe said concerned individuals may report violations of the law to the National Telecommunications Commission.

The senator cited stringent penalties under Sec. 6 of the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, which stipulates that any person who gives false or misleading data or information or willfully or through gross negligence, conceals or falsifies a material fact, in any investigation, inquiry, study, or other proceeding pursuant to the Act face imprisonment of two months to six months and a fine ranging from P1,000 to P10,000. 

If the offender is a corporation, the penalties may range from a fine of P1 million to P10 million and/or face suspension or revocation of its legislative franchise and other permits and licenses issued by the NTC.

The super typhoon, which had a massive 800-kilometer diameter, wrought havoc in northern Luzon provinces, uprooting or whacking down trees and electric posts, damaging houses and establishments and inundating streets and ricefields. 

Topics: Senator Grace Poe , Disaster agencies , Telecommunication companies , Typhoon Lawin
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