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Govt execs call for warning signal system for heavy rains

After rains brought about by a cold front in Bicol and parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, government officials mounted calls for a "warning signal" system similar to that used for tropical cyclones. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson on Wednesday urged the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to set up a system that can help the public gauge potential threats from heavy rains. "PAGASA had been warning us of massive rainfall but there is no classification system to help us assess the potential threat. Perhaps PAGASA should draw up a classification system, not just for typhoons but also for massive rainfall," Singson said in an interview on dwIZ radio. As of Tuesday night, at least 18 were confirmed dead in the wake of floods and landslides in Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Northeastern Mindanao. Earlier, Albay Governor Jose Salceda urged PAGASA to assign names to unnamed weather systems that are not typhoons but can also cause deaths. Salceda suggested that the system cover tail-end of the cold front, low-pressure areas, and even inter-tropical convergence zones (ITCZ). For its part, PAGASA said it is planning to help people interpret data from rain gauges at the grassroots level. PAGASA officer-in-charge Graciano Yumul Jr. said PAGASA has installed automatic weather stations, including those in the flood-hit CARAGA area, that relay data to the PAGASA main office in Quezon City. He said PAGASA has also established a community-based early warning system. "In the process turuan natin ang kababayan sa grassroots level paano mag-maintain magbasa ng rain gauge (In the process we can teach people in the grassroots to interpret data from rain gauges)," he said in an interview on dzRH radio. Meanwhile, Singson said the DPWH will plan more flood control projects especially in Bicol, where he said volcano eruptions are likely to clog river systems. At least two volcanoes in Bicol – Mayon and Bulusan – remain under Alert Level 1. "When volcanoes erupt in Bicol, river systems are silted and this causes floods in areas not flooded in the past. We are looking into what we can do to address the issues," he said. — LBG, GMANews.TV