Stranded? Get Twitter account, says LacierdaBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
If you were stranded in some flooded part of the city on Sunday night, that’s your fault. You probably did not monitor weather advisories from government agencies on Twitter or listen to the radio.
Responding to widespread criticism that the government was caught flat-footed by Tropical Storm “Gener,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said governmental agencies had been issuing weather advisories since 8 p.m. on Sunday through Twitter.
Lacierda said it was the public’s duty to follow weather information, including through Twitter, from the weather bureau and disaster-response agencies.
“As far as we know, the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) has been giving information to the public through Twitter, through the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction Management and Coordinating Council), and through radio [and television] stations that are following them (Twitter accounts),” Lacierda said at a press briefing in the Palace.
Told that that it was impossible to follow Twitter amid power outages in several areas in Metro Manila, Lacierda retorted that he continued to follow weather reports through a battery-operated radio set.
Informed that even Philippine Daily Inquirer editors had difficulty going home on Sunday night because of the flash floods, heavy rain and strong winds, Lacierda said: “I don’t know. The Inquirer follows NDRRMC and DOST—you don’t follow DOST apparently. But those who were following the Twitter accounts of, for instance, ANC Alerts, dzIQ—that’s your station—[were informed]. Maybe the radio failed to inform the desk.”
He said TV5’s InterAksyon and dzMM’s Teleradyo were also following the Twitter account of the DOST.
Don’t blame Pagasa
Lacierda said weather officials should not be blamed. The government can show records of bulletins issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) to show that the weather bureau had not been remiss in informing the public about the weather situation, he said.
He also defended Pagasa against criticism for belatedly monitoring a low pressure over Bataan that brought strong winds and heavy rains to the capital starting late Sunday and lasting till early Monday.
Lacierda said the DOST informed the public about the low pressure area as early as 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, while Pagasa and the NDRRMC warned of heavy rains in the capital at 8 p.m.
People would have known had they contacted those agencies through Twitter.
Semiocast, a Paris-based company that provides data and research on social media, estimated Twitter users in the Philippines at 8 million as of January 2012.
Using its official Twitter account, @dost_pagasa, the weather bureau posted updates specifying areas affected by heavy rains. Throughout the night, the weather bureau also used its account to issue warnings as well as information on the water level of La Mesa and Ipo dams.
As early as 10 p.m. of Sunday, the Department of Education announced class suspensions using its Twitter handle, @Dep_EdPH.
The city government of Makati also used social media in issuing flood warnings, advisories and traffic updates within the city using the account, @MakatiTraffic. It also accommodated queries from other Twitter users.
Media outfits maintaining Twitter accounts such as @inquirerdotnet, @dzIQ990, @ANCALERTS and @gmanews also carried reports and echoed official weather advisories.