Senate backs free SMS warning alert bill, seeks probe of ATM fraud

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Senate President Franklin M. Drilon Senate President Franklin M. Drilon[/caption] Drilon said the passage of House Bill No. 353, which mandates telcos to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities “would help achieve the main objectives of disaster preparedness which are to lessen the impact of the typhoon and ultimately save lives.” HBN 353 on Monday, Feb. 26, was favorably endorsed by the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., with some amendments introduced by Drilon. In his amendments, Drilon sought to penalize any telephone company which will fail or refuse to send out warning alerts, with a fine of P1 million to P10 million, or a revocation of its legislative franchise. “Having been ranked as the third most disaster-prone country in the world, it is imperative for the Philippines to put up a mechanism to efficiently disseminate early warnings of typhoons,” explained Drilon. In 2013, the 2012 World Disaster Report placed the Philippines third among all countries which recorded the highest exposure to natural calamities. The Senate leader said the government should be able to employ the most efficient and fastest way in sending out alerts in the event of an impending calamity such as a tropical storm, tsunami or earthquake. Under the bill, the alerts shall consist of updated information from the relevant agencies, and shall be sent directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas. He said sending out alerts through mobile phones could be the most efficient tool given the fact that the Philippines recorded the highest number of cellular phone users in the world. According to Business Monitor International (BMI) study, the Philippines is expected to reach 117 million mobile subscribers by 2016, noted Drilon. “As the texting capital of the world, we can greatly use the instantaneous, flexible and reliable short message service (SMS) technology as a potent tool during disaster situations — one that is intimately understood and easily accessed by millions of Filipinos who have cellphones,” emphasized Drilon. Drilon has cited the telcos for being cooperative towards the passage of the bill. He said National Telecommunications Commission chief Gamaliel Cordoba relayed during the committee hearing that the proposed measure sits well with the telephone companies, as sending out text message disaster alerts does not require additional costs on their operations. [caption id="attachment_16148" align="aligncenter" width="416"]Sen. Grace Poe Sen. Grace Poe [/caption] Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe has asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intensify efforts to halt automated teller machine (ATM) fraud and catch perpetrators. “Lahat tayo ninenerbyos ‘pag di makakuha ng pera sa ATM. Importante talaga at dapat tiyakin ang seguridad nito para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan,” Poe said during a joint committee hearing on the alarming increase in ATM fraud on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The PNP presented the various modes of ATM fraud, which include a skimming plate placed on top of keypads to copy PIN codes of depositors to illegally withdraw money from bank accounts. Poe opposed the proposal to decrease the withdrawable amount per day as it would adversely affect economic activity. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said it issued a directive requiring banks to shift from magnetic stripe to chip in their ATM cards to strengthen the system. Poe also asked the PNP to submit a proposal to strengthen its capability to combat ATM fraud to ensure the welfare of depositors and the integrity of the banking system. The BSP recorded 1,272 reports of ATM fraud in 2013, involving an estimated P220 million, while P175 million was lost to the scam in 2012. ]]>

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