Negotiations are underway between representatives of the nation’s weather agency and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) over funding of the replacement of the Doppler radar station at Buenavista, Baras that was destroyed by super typhoon Rolly in 2020.
Whatever the outcome of the talks on the issue of who will finance the reconstruction of the radar system, the rehabilitation process itself from the radar equipment’s assembly to full installation and commissioning would take two long years, according to a reliable source.
Of the more than 10 new radar facilities installed by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in the last decade or so, majority have been funded by the national government, with JICA financing three others, including Virac’s P560 million facility in 2012, through a grant aid.
An unconfirmed report, however, claims that the Japanese aid agency has agreed to finance the replacement of the entire radar system at Buenavista for P300 million.
However, the procurement needs the availability of the Philippine government’s counterpart funding by January 2023 so that the Japanese government could start the bidding process for the supply and delivery of the radar system.
The entire process from manufacture of the parts to assembly and installation would take two years, with the radar facility to resume operation by late 2024 or early 2025, the same report stated.
The supplier of the previous radar equipment, Japan Radio Company, will also undertake the job.
It will not only be the radar itself that will be replaced but also the accompanying computer system and software.
The dome itself will likely be smaller and built from panels of outer covering laid out in a spiral configuration around it, unlike the previous dome which was made of small panels laid out vertically.
It may be recalled that the Baras Doppler radar station was built in July 2010 and completed in February 2012 by the Japan Weather Association as consultant and with the consortium of Shimizu Corporation and FF Cruz Construction as contractor and Japan Radio Company as supplier and installer for the telecommunications equipment.
At the time, the new Solid-State Meteorological Radar System (SSMRS) technology developed by JRC used integrated chips to transmit sound waves as far as 480 kilometers away to determine wind velocity, rainfall intensity and speed, volume of rainfall and area coverage.
This made it possible for PAGASA to issue forecasts with a high degree of accuracy, depending on the interpretation of the radar images. .
Built on top of a mountain and anchored to the bedrock by a concrete mat foundation and concrete piles driven to a depth of 24 meters, the 44-meter-tall radar tower featured a radar dome made of thin fiberglass plates bolted together.
A JRC technical official at the time claimed that the radome could withstand winds of up to 450 kilometers per hour.
However, accounts of PAGASA personnel who were at the radar as the eye of Rolly passed at 4:30 AM of Nov. 1, 2020 stated that all signals from the Doppler radar disappeared 10 minutes later.
At the time, the last reading of the typhoon’s sustained winds was 280 kph, with its minimum central pressure dropping so low that the inked line tracing the readings dropped off the edge of the graphing paper edge.
Nearby residents later told personnel that they saw pieces of the radome being torn off by the typhoon’s gusts until the entire dome was gone.
“The whole building was shaking and water was pouring down the cables from the now open radome area,” PAGASA Virac officer-in-charge Juan Pantino Jr. recalled.
When the winds subsided, he and the other four weathermen and security guard then discovered the radome missing as well as the parabolic antenna attached to the still intact pedestal.
Debris presumed to be from the radome was spotted in the mountains about 500 meters away while some residents claimed that the others were blown away towards barangay Cagraray.
In an interview last week, Pantino said that based on an earlier inspection, all the equipment will be replaced except for the building and the generators as the water and humidity had saturated the electronic and computer equipment.
But the new equipment will be an upgraded version based on the latest design of the JRC radars, he added.
Based on the company website, the model likely to be installed is its Rainwatcher S-Band Doppler Radar Rainfall Sensor with Solid State Technology (JMA-254 Series) with an observation range of 400 to 450 kilometers.
With a radome diameter of eight meters, the system provides long range observation of wide-area weather particularly typhoons.
Just recently, the same company installed a C-Band Doppler radar at Cataingan, Masbate, with another one to be completed soon in Laoang, Northern Samar.
Based on the website, the C-Band model has a slightly smaller range of 300 to 400 kilometers and aimed at observing meso scale weather for use of airports and other facilities.
Inaugurated last Aug. 17, the Masbate facility is the 18th Doppler radar to be completed by DOST-PAGASA and aside from weather observation and nowcasting, can also be used in monitoring geologic hazards such as in volcanic plumes during eruptions of Mt. Mayon and Bulusan volcano.
It may be recalled that on its 9th Regular Session, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved a resolution, sponsored by PBM Jose Romeo Francisco, urgently requesting the intercession of the Japanes government through JICA for the urgent repair and rehabilitation of the Doppler Radar Antenna at the PAGASA weather station in Buenavista, Bato.