DA-XI to use drone to help assess disaster damage

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 March) – The Department of Agriculture will be procuring an aerial drone to help assess damage during disasters, said a regional official of the department.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Pamela G. Sosa, chief of the information technology section, said that a budget of about P250,000 is set for the procurement of an aerial drone which will be used within the year.

“That’s our limit,” Sosa said. “There was a bidder who showed us another unit, but it was too expensive at P700,000.”

The use of drones was brought up last week by Agriculture Secretary Proseso Alcala during a press briefing held Thursday at the Marco Polo Davao.

He said the agency was considering the use of drones since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other government agencies have used the device with a certain degree of success.

Sosa said the idea came from regional director Remelyn Recoter after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Pablo, which killed 1,067 in 2012 and caused millions of pesos in agricultural and infrastructure damage.

At the moment, the agency uses geotagging technology to map its projects. The process includes the identification of the project’s location, as well as the time and date that the photograph is taken.

However, the technology is not as reliable in disaster assessments, as this does not provide a real-time aerial assessment of the damaged farms.

Sosa said the DA relies on reports by local government units to assess damage to agriculture during disasters like typhoons and floods.

During disasters, LGUs report to the DA its assessment of damage, based on the number of hectares within the barangay or municipality.

The use of drones could be useful for flood-prone areas like the towns of Asuncion and Carmen in Davao del Norte, she said.

Acquiring a drone would help make this assessment more accurate, she said.

“But our budget is limited,” Sosa said.

The DA official said the initial bidding process did not push through because there were only two bidders which fall below the three needed by the agency’s bids and awards committee.

Sosa emphasized the drone would only be used in post-disaster assessment.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Typhoon Pablo caused a damage of P26.5 billion to agriculture, P36.9 billion to properties, and P7.6 billion to infrastructure.