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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

DOST equipment thieves are also murderers - DOST chief says

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo likens to murderers the thieves who stole several meters of cables and five pieces of 12 volts batteries at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) seismic relay stations in Sto. Domingo, Alba.

“These unscrupulous individuals are not only thieves they could also qualify as murderers. By stealing cables of seismic sensors to sell for a measly sum, they jeopardize the safety and put at risk the very lives of the people of Albay, their properties, as well as the resources of the province in the event of a major volcanic activity,” Sec. Montejo expressed his dismay over the theft in the unmanned Phivolcs relay station near Mayon Volcano in Albay.

According to an official report, the seismic station of the DOST- Phivolcs in Legazpi has not received any data from the two relay stations in the Municipality of Sto. Domingo since December 14 last year. Upon inspection of the team from DOST-Phivolcs, they discovered that meters of cables connected to the seismic sensors from the unmanned relay stations and five pieces of 12 volts batteries were missing.

DOST- Phivolcs’ unmanned relay stations are equipped with seismic sensors and radio transceivers that transmit seismic data to the PHIVOLCS central station in Quezon City. These stations transmit vital information on seismic and volcanic activities in the province.

DOST- Phivolcs Director Renato U. Solidum said that the incident has caused 50 percent loss in data transmission. “It is a good thing that Mayon Volcano is not active as of this time,” he told.

Dir. Solidum added that Mayon Volcano is on Alert Level 1 which, in a scale of 0-5, it is considered abnormal. “There were several volcanic activities that were monitored,” explained Dir. Solidum.

However, Dir. Solidum stressed that the incident, although it caused temporary disruption in seismic data transmission, did not hinder the normal operations of the agency in terms of volcanic and seismic monitoring. “The incident did not cripple Phivolcs because other relay stations in Albay are functioning efficiently,” he revealed.

Sec. Montejo urged the people who live near DOST weather and seismic forecasting and monitoring stations to be vigilant in reporting malicious activities that compromise the safety of the people.

“The safety of the people is our primordial concern, which is why the government is aggressively installing weather forecasting and other monitoring equipment like rain gauges and water level sensors critical to monitoring flood prone areas,” he added.

This year, the government is set to install water level sensors and rain gauges in all major river systems in the country as part of the national flood forecasting, monitoring and mitigation program spearheaded by the DOST . Sec. Montejo raised the matter of pilferage of DOST monitoring equipment during yesterday’s interagency meeting on the national flood program convened by the Department of Public Works and Highways and attended by the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Government, Social Work and Development, and the Environment and Natural Resources. The DILG and the DOJ in particular will look into ways on how to protect these vital monitoring equipment in the local level and immediately prosecute those caught stealing them.

Sec. Montejo also appealed to the community and their leaders to help protect these equipment. “More importantly, people in the areas where monitoring equipment are installed should help safeguard these equipment. After all, their lives, properties, and communities’ safety are all at stake here.”, Montejo said.

President Aquino has certified as urgent the proposed bill in Congress penalizing the stealing of weather and disaster monitoring equipment of the DOST. STII-DOST

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