Nearly 2 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Central Philippines in one of the worst natural disasters in modern history, survivors are slowly getting food, water, and medical attention and supplies, along with shelter, communication, and electrical power. Now, the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) is hoping that requests for emergency communication gear will provide the means for PARA’s Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) network to enhance its presence and efforts — especially in less-populated and harder-to-reach areas. At the request of communication authorities in the Philippines, PARA has begun expanding locations and facilities. PARA Vice CEO Ramon Anquilan, DU1UGZ, said PARA has been working with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
“The NTC has requested that the coverage from Borongan be expanded, to the adjacent town and so on. The idea is to set up an HF station in the farthest town that can be accessed,” Anquilan said. “Given the new task that NTC wants us to do, we will be needing stations that can be deployed and dismantled at a moment’s notice.”
Anquilan said discussion at the meeting focused on putting assets on the ground in the blind spots. “It seems only PARA has a local station — Lester, DV5PO — in the capital town of Borongan, East of Samar,” he said. DV5PO is expected to be given more diesel fuel for his generator, so he can continue supplying vital information — a request agreed to at the NTC meeting.
“This is going now into the difficult phase,” Anquilan said. “The operators that are needed should come from the outside, because our locals will not budge from their locations as they have to fend for themselves and their families — they too are victims of this disaster.” He said other radio amateurs are willing but don’t have the necessary equipment.
In Tacloban, where 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed, the Negros Oriental Radio Assistance Dumaguete (NORAD 7) team is on its way to provide an additional HF station. “The team is bringing much needed relief goods, and Rey Boy Manaay, 4D7DSW, and Eric Mite, DW7DTR, who are trained in rescue,” Anquilan said. He’s hoping to replace the old equipment Nathan, DU5AOK, is using with gear provided from the outside.
He said Darwin Torres, 4F1FZE, an experienced operator, will join the effort at Tacloban. PARA is hoping to improve VHF coverage of the area, with HF remaining a critical component. Torres is embedded in a relief team arriving from Manila.
Anquilan said there are two repeaters in Tacloban with no power, “so we need alternative energy — batteries and solar power.” He said a team can be deployed to Samar, perhaps Guiuan or further west. “We need equipment to link Samar to Tacloban. This will mean a VHF repeater available to a large portion of the affected site of Samar.”
The farthest affected place is Coron in Palawan, a famous tourist spot. Clifford Certeza, DU1CC, is headed there to set up an HF station. Anquilan said that there was no relay station from Palo down the coastal municipalities on the eastern seaboard of Leyte. A HERO station, part of the club ACCESS 5 in that area, has not been heard from since the typhoon hit. Another station is needed to provide the link, he said.
“PARA and its HERO network have a long task ahead, as it slowly gains the necessary resources and recognition for the emergency communications,” Anquilan said.
Jojo, DU1VHY, NTS Chairman and CFO of the Philippine Amateur Radio Association pointed out this week that the CQ World Wide DX CW contest is coming up this weekend, and excitement is growing. “However, here in the Philippines, our enthusiasm is a bit tempered,” he said. “[H]ams in the Philippines are using the frequencies 7.095, 7.119, and 7.151 MHz for emergency operations.” DU1VHY expressed the hope that contesters and others will avoid these frequencies in deference to emergency traffic. — Thanks to Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee