As typhoon Ulysses left a destructive path along parts of Luzon and Metro Manila, a familiar name — Project NOAH — re-surfaced the interwebs and even trended in Philippine social media.
What is Project NOAH?
An acronym for the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazard (NOAH), the project was publicly launched in July 2012 by then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III as a response to the call for a more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system (post typhoon Sendong of December 2011). Under the direct supervision and authority of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Project NOAH had eight (08) major components:
- Distribution of Hydrometeorological Devices in hard-hit areas in the Philippines (Hydromet)
- Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation – Light Detection and Ranging (DREAM-LIDAR) Project
- Enhancing Geohazards Mapping through LIDAR
- Coastal Hazards and Storm Surge Assessment and Mitigation (CHASSAM)
- Flood Information Network (FloodNET) Project
- Local Development of Doppler Radar Systems (LaDDeRS)
- Landslide Sensors Development Project
- Weather Hazard Information Project (WHIP)
On October 2012, the DOST together with Smart Communications launched the mobile application of Project NOAH, which was originally prototyped as an HTML5 webapp.
After receiving various awards both locally and abroad, the effectiveness of the project’s real-time weather data and hazard maps — both part of the “flagship disaster prevention and mitigation program” of the Philippines — is something that all Filipinos cannot ignore.
On January 2017, the current administration decided to pull the plug of Project NOAH — leaving its team a tenure of up to February 2017 only.
But fret not, it may also be worth noting that as early as 2015 (still during the reign of President BS Aquino), the scientists and staff working under Project NOAH were made aware by DOST officials that they no longer have funds for the project. In addition, it was around February 2017 when the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) received two (02) doppler radars from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), boosting their weather prediction capabilities to another level.
What Happened to Project NOAH?
The “sudden” defunding of Project NOAH in 2017 received mix reactions from Filipinos. To some, it is a proof that the current administration do not value the contributions of the project (and the people behind it) to mitigate upcoming natural calamities and disasters.
Little did many know, with just days before it gets shutdown on 28 February 2017, the University of the Philippines “adopted” Project NOAH to operate beyond DOST’s funding.
On June 2017, the UP Resilience Institute was relaunched with what is known now as the UP NOAH Center [https://center.noah.up.edu.ph/] and the Project NOAH webapp is still online via http://noah.up.edu.ph/.
Do not compare the former Project NOAH to the present-day PAGASA or even the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
In fairness on how the PAGASA predicts our weather now, as an AvGeek, I am well contented and happy. PAGASA’s weather forecasting has indeed improved over these past few years. With highly skilled and competent meteorologists coupled with modern equipment, the weather agency can now give heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, and even lightning warnings within the span of one (01) to two (02) hours — plus, they are also active on social media.
There is also a bill in the Philippine Congress for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience, which will soon be responsible for leading, organizing, and managing national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for and respond to disasters. As of September 2020, this bill has been approved on the third and final reading.
Project NOAH has served its purpose under the DOST. For one, projects are not meant to run forever. Project NOAH has moved on. We should, too.