Press Release
January 19, 2011


Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is seeking heavier penalties for theft and tampering of disaster warning and risk reduction devices. Zubiri made this warning after PAGASA, the state weather service, has said that a million people have been left without advance warning of flash floods after the theft of the sensors at Agno river and its Tarlac river tributary.

"The recent incidents of theft of flood warning devices in Pangasinan and Tarlac are very alarming, to say the least. It seems that the perpetrators of this crime have become so callous and insensitive to set aside its significance in disaster risk reduction and prevention for personal gain and profit," Zubiri pointed out.

Zubiri yesterday filed Senate Bill 2638 or An Act Penalizing Theft and Tampering of Disaster Warning and Risk Reduction Devices, and for other Purposes. Under the proposed measure, unauthorized possession, custody, control, tampering and theft of any disaster warning and risk reduction devices will be charged with penalties ranging from 12-20 years imprisonment and a fine of anywhere between one hundred to three hundred thousand pesos depending on the severity of the act.

"It is about time to severely penalize the commission of this crime, the perpetrators, their cohorts and the unauthorized possession of flood warning devices and similar disaster warning and risk reduction devices being used and operated by the government. By imposing stiffer penalties, this bill is envisioned to minimize if not eradicate the perpetration of such crimes," the senator from Bukidnon said.

According to news reports, the stolen river sensors amounting to one million pesos each were donated by the Japanese International Coordinating Agency (JICA) and are being used to measure the volume, depth, and speed of the water current when flooding occurs. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) operates the devices. It reported the incident to the authorities on Monday (January 10), after it failed to get any feedback on the status of the two river channels from these sensors. Authorities suspect that the sensors are being sold as scrap for quick cash.

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