Telcos scored for failing to send out ‘Lawin’ alerts

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WATERY RIDE Residents ride in a rubber boat across a river after a bridge in their village was destroyed by super Typhoon Lawin (international code name: Haima) in Peñablanca town in Cagayan province in Northern Luzon on Friday. AFP PHOTO

WATERY RIDE Residents ride in a rubber boat across a river after a bridge in their village was destroyed by super Typhoon Lawin (international code name: Haima) in Peñablanca town in Cagayan province in Northern Luzon on Friday. AFP PHOTO

TELECOMMUNICATION companies will have a lot of explaining to do on their failure to send out free mobile alerts to effectively warn the public of the arrival of super Typhoon Lawin (international code name: Haima) on Wednesday.

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Senator Grace Poe has filed Senate Resolution (SR) 211, urging the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media to conduct an inquiry into the reported failure of telecommunication service providers to comply with Republic Act (RA) 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act.

Poe in filing SR 211 cited news reports on lapses of telecommunication companies to send out mobile alerts to those residing in areas identified to be directly affected by Lawin, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country this year.

Aside from the news reports, the senator also received information from residents in the affected areas that they were not able to receive alerts on their mobile phones before the super typhoon struck.

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

Section 4 of the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, requires mobile phone service providers to send out alerts at regular intervals in face of impending tropical storm, typhoon, tsunami or other calamities.

The alerts should consist of up-to-date information from relevant agencies and shall be sent directly to mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas.

Poe, chairman of the Senate committee, wants officials of the National Telecommunications Commission and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to provide information on their compliance with the law.

RA 10639, which was authored by Poe, was signed into law on June 20, 2014 and its implementing Rules and Regulations were issued on 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,” she said.

Telecommunication companies as well as individuals who would be found violating the law or spreading false or misleading information could face imprisonment of not more than six months and a fine ranging from P1,000 to P10,000.

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