THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has a lot of explaining to do before Sen. Grace Poe in connection with its failure to implement the recently enacted Free Disaster Emergency Alerts Act.
The law entitles millions of mobile phone service subscribers free alerts and up-to-date information during typhoons and other natural disasters.
According to Sen. Poe, she will personally ask the NTC to “satisfactorily” explain why it has not been able to execute the law despite having more than enough time to prepare for its implementation.
“I would personally ask the NTC to satisfactorily explain such inaction and direct them to fast-track the implementation of the same [Free Disaster Emergency Alerts Act],” Poe said on Tuesday.
She has sponsored the House bill in the Senate.
The Free Disaster Emergency Alerts Act or Republic Act 10639, signed on June 20 by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, mandates mobile service providers to send alerts at regular intervals during typhoons and other natural disasters.
The alerts will be free of cost (both to the government and subscribers) and will be sent to mobile subscribers near and within affected areas.
The law also provides that the alerts shall contain up-to-date information from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other relevant agencies along with contact details of local government agencies and locations of evacuation sites, if needed.
It mandates NTC, NDRRMC and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) within 60 from effectivity of the act.
This means that mobile phone service providers should have been sending free disaster alerts to their subscribers as early as August or September because the law requires NTC, NDRRMC and Pagasa to complete the IRR two months after the President signed it.
Poe said while lessons learned from Super Typhoon Yolanda , which hit the country last year, and government efforts during the onslaught of Typhoon Ruby, which continues to cause death and damage, have been commendable, failure on the part of concerned government agencies to implement an existing law just because of the inability to come up with the IRR is intolerable.
“The undue delay in the implementation of the IRR is still unacceptable,” the senator added.
When asked if there is a chance that telecommunications companies could be behind the delay in the implementation of the law, Poe said it is unlikely because service providers have been very supportive of the measure.
“The hearings did not take long because all major telecommunications companies were very cooperative,” she added, referring to the hearings of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media when the proposed law was still at the committee level.