Aquino approves free mobile disaster alerts

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd has signed into law a bill that will require the country’s telecommunication companies to send free mobile alerts during natural or man-made disasters and calamities.

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Republic Act 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, which was signed by Aquino on June 20, seeks to prevent injuries, destruction and loss of lives and property.

The new law mandates mobile phone service providers to send out alerts at regular intervals as required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and other relevant agencies in the event of an impending tropical storm, typhoon, tsunami or other calamities.

The alerts shall consist of up-to-date information from the relevant agencies and shall be sent directly to mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas. Furthermore, the alerts shall include the contact information of local government units, first responders, evacuation areas, relief sits and pick-up points.

The mobile alerts, which may be in the form of text messages, multimedia messaging service or email, shall be at no cost to consumers and shall be included as part of the service providers’ auxiliary services.

The new law states that any person who gives false or misleading data or information shall 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 giving false data is made under oath, the maximum penalty for perjury will be imposed.

On one hand, corporations who violate the law shall be meted a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P10 million and/or a suspension or revocation of their legislative franchises and other permits and licenses issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The Department of Transportation and Communications, NTC, NDRRMC, Pagasa and other concerned agencies have been directed to craft the rules and regulations implementing RA 10639 within 60 days from the effectivity of the law.

The new law takes effect after complete publication either in the Official Gazette or in a national newspaper.

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