Manila Observatory brings science to Church, grassroots

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Luigi Torres of the Manila Observatory shows a copy of the hazard map of Davao Oriental to Fr. Edito Baño, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mati. (Photo: John Frances C. Fuentes)

BAGANGA, Davao Oriental, Dec. 20, 2015—Three years after Typhoon Pablo (International name: Bopha) hit this part of the country, people are slowly rebuilding their lives and learn the lessons that the disaster has brought with it with the help of the Manila Observatory.

The Observatory facilitated the installation of Automated Weather Station (AWS) in different areas in Davao Oriental for data-gathering and localized weather reporting.

“We are bringing science to the community through evidence-based information. This will help communities for better preparedness,” said team leader Milet Mendoza, a social scientist and a humanitarian volunteer worker, adding that the information will guide community leaders both in the church and in the government in their decision-making.

In partnership with Smart Telecommunications and Shell, three weather systems were installed on the roof tops of Shell Matiao, Mati City station, Immaculate Conception Church in Baganga, and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sigaboy.

Genie Lorenzo, research associate of Manila Observatory, explained to the young people and the lay leaders of the parishes how the AWS works and how they can monitor changes in weather patterns in their area.

She said the AWS will send data to the Manila Observatory using internet connection provided by Smart with information on the temperature, amount of rainfall, wind speed in the area can be accessed through www.weatherlink.com.

She added the AWS can effectively function if the device is well-maintained and cleaned which the lay leaders of the Gagmay’ngKristohanongKatilingban (GKK) or Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) can help ensure.

Genie Lorenzo of the Manila Observatory explains to the youth of St. Francis Xavier in Sigaboy, Davao Oriental how the Automated Weather Station functions. (Photo: John Frances C. Fuentes)

Saving lives through science

Mendoza said the team is bringing science to the grassroots and highlight the lessons that the people have learned from typhoon Pablo which struck the province last Dec. 4, 2012.

“Their decisions will save lives,” Mendoza said.

Aside from the installation of AWS, the Manila Observatory Team members, Liz Del Castillo and Luigi Torres, also had a hazard-mapping of the Davao Oriental area and validated the identified hazard areas in the province with the aid of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device.

They also identified whether the satellite images are consistent with its current state like if the land is used for agriculture or industry.

They explained to the Mati clergy, religious, and laity the effect of human activities on the land, saying that mining activities, deforestation, construction of buildings, and increasing population density in Davao Oriental have affected the soil’s water-holding capacity, resulting in flooding and landslides.

Torres said the hazard map will help government officials in deciding whether to allow building construction, especially for habitation in areas prone to natural hazards.

‘Good partnership

Mendoza highlighted the Church’s BECsor GKKs in the Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati (DADITAMA) ecclesiastical sub-region as a sector that can potentially help in disaster risk reduction.

She said GKKs can mobilize themselves because the members are living in the communities that are affected by the hazards.

“This is a good partnership between Manila Observatory, Shell, Smart, and the Church. Manila Observatory knows the science of climate change and how it affects people. We want to transfer this knowledge to areas like Davao Oriental who is vulnerable to environmental hazards,” explained Mendoza.

She added they are looking forward to a partnership with the academe and work together for climate change adaptation, especially that the East Coast of Davao Oriental was affected by tropical depression Onyok.

Manila Observatory is a Jesuit non-profit research institute located at the Ateneo de Davao University that was founded in 1865 for weather forecasting and earthquake research. The Manila Observatory has worked with different partner organizations, including the Archdiocese of Davao and Diocese of Mati, especially during the onslaught of typhoon Pablo. (John Frances C. Fuentes / CBCP News)

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