The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council’s Intelligent Operations Center is being praised and admired by Filipinos after photos of it were shared on social media during the aftermath of Typhoon “Ompong.”
Some compared the facilities to that of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mission Control Center.
Mukhang NASA diba?
— ?mestiza de chinita? (@sayiloveyoubaby) September 16, 2018
A news outlet shared a footage of the Operations Center prior to it being visited by President Rodrigo Duterte for his command conference with several weather, disaster and government officials in preparation for Typhoon “Ompong’s” onslaught.
The Operations Center is located in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. It is the “core center in providing any-to-any video, audio, data communications services to connect the country’s 17 central NDRRMC offices.”
Faces behind the project
The new Operations Center was constructed in 2014 and finished in 2017.
While reports state that it was purely funded by a private company named SMS Global Technologies Inc., former NDRRMC Chief Undersecretary Alexander Pama claimed that parts of it were funded by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Office of Civil Defense.
“The DPWH provided 60 million pesos from its 2015 budget to build this. I should know as it was during my tenure as the OCD Administrator when this was designed and built,” Pama wrote in a Facebook post.
“It was finished during USec Jalad’s time as OCD administrator and the furniture and equipment were provided by OCD and SMSGT,” he continued.
However, the 2015 General Appropriations Act released by the Department of Budget and Management does not explicitly state that DPWH handed out P60 million for NDRRMC’s new command center.
What was stated in NDRRMC’s General Appropriations Act were the following:
“The NDRRMC shall consider the donations or grants received by agencies of the government in support of calamities in making the foregoing recommendation to the President of the Philippines. In case of rehabilitation or reconstruction of infrastructure projects, the DPWH shall be identified as the implementing agency.”
For projects that cost more than ten million pesos, DPWH “may delegate the implementation thereof to LGUs with the capability to implement said projects by themselves, as determined by DPWH.”
SMS Global Technologies Inc. president Anthony Angeles said that the facility was donated by their company and their partners from US, Canada and New Zealand.
He shared that the estimated cost for the project was around P250 to P300 million. In a 2014 report, it was noted that their industry partners have additionally donated P100 million to the project.
Pama clarified that every donated fund was streamlined by NDRRMC. “We would be the ones dictating on where to use the funds; it’s like a bridal registry,” he explained in an interview before.
The erection of the Operations Center came after Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name “Haiyan”) ravaged the country in 2013 and left 6,300 people dead, according to reports.
According to former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the disaster taught them to prioritize communication and coordination among government agencies.
“When Yolanda hit, the key realization is the importance of communication. Communication connects the responders and the victims,” he shared.
Pama added that the facility aimed to enhance the government agency’s communications capability with real-time constant data streaming.
“Its capabilities would be in communications and information technology using satellite communications with real-time video, voice, and data transmission. There would be a media lounge for instantaneous dissemination for the citizens,” he said.
The three-story building is equipped with working areas for its member agencies, a monitoring area, a boardroom and a media center.
NDRRMC is the one responsible for preparing and responding to natural calamities such as typhoons and earthquakes. They are also in charge of monitoring human-induced emergencies like armed conflicts and maritime accidents.
One of their most famous jobs is to inform people of natural calamities in their areas by sending text messages in accordance with “The Free Mobile Disasters Act.” — Photo from ‘MatthewLorenz’ via Reddit Philippines