Disaster response Philippines

Typhoons Ketsana and Parma

Published on Sep 28, 2009 02:00 AM  -  Updated on Jul 09, 2020 05:12 PM
Typhoons Ketsana and Parma resulted in the deaths of more than 800 people and caused damage in 8 regions of the Philippines. A TSF team was operational in Manila less than 24 hours after the NDCC request. The telecom facilities installed by the team connected coordination centers in Manila, Tuguegarao and Tarlac; they also benefited UNDAC evaluation teams in 3 regions. More than 1070 calls were made to those affected, who were able to contact their family abroad.

Context: Typhoon
Start date: 28/09/2009
End date: 26/10/2009
Areas of intervention: 14 towns in 3 provinces

  • Manille, National Capital Region
  • Cagayan, Region II
  • Tarlac, Region III


  • Telecom Centre
  • Humanitarian Calling Operations

3 telecom centres
2.9 GB of data exchanged
15 organisations connected
1,072 calls offered
53.4 hours of calls


On 26th September, the tropical storm Ketsana hit the Philippines, causing the worst floods in 40 years, in Manila and its neighbouring provinces. The following day, President Gloria Arroyo declared the state of natural disaster in eight regions and asked for international aid. The country's authorities triggered urgent massive relief operations, but they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. 80% of Manila, a sprawling city of 12 million people, was under six meters of water. More than 435,000 people have been displaced, and more than 100 people have been killed.

A week later, on 3rd October, typhoon Parma hit the Cagayan Valley, north of the country. The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that the area had no electricity, that communications were broken and that its teams had lost contact with the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC). Parma has forced nearly 70,000 people to flee their homes and shelter in safer locations.

Telecommunications facilities were inadequate and damaged in the disaster area; data transmission was not possible in any of the coordination centres. Some areas were totally isolated.


At the request of the NDCC, a team of Télécoms Sans Frontières arrived in Manila on 28th September, from its Bangkok regional base. Given the importance of the needs, a second team landed in Manila the next day. TSF was also responsible to support the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and to prepare the arrival of their team for the Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) by ensuring that they had the necessary means to communicate and strengthen the coordination of humanitarian aid.

With the support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), TSF deployed in the affected areas to set up telecom centres and to provide technical assistance in order to facilitate the coordination of humanitarian aid and the communication of rescue teams in the heart of the affected area.

Telecoms centres

OSOCC/NDCC Manille Centre

The centre opened on 29th September in a tent outside the NDCC headquarters due to lack of space in their premises. This Centre was transferred a few days later to a gymnasium converted into an On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) to accommodate all the additional humanitarian workers. Initially provided via satellite, the connection was transferred to the NDCC headquarters connection on 3rd October - for cost management reasons - and a cable was pulled to the gym to share the connection. TSF provided technical support to the users of the centre until 10th October, when an APHP technician took over. In order not to disrupt the smooth running of the centre, TSF donated a Wi-Fi router ensuring the continuity of the service.

The main activities of the Manila telecom centre were to:
- Urgently provide a reliable and high-speed internet connection
- Provide a satellite phone line in case of GSM network failure
- Provide additional services (black and white laser and colour printing, scanner, fax, photocopy)
- Provide technical support for IT and telecoms
- Provide general technical support to the UNDAC team to improve overall coordination
- Loan GPS to the UNDAC teams for their assessments
- Support the mapping of evacuation centres / accommodation in collaboration with the NGO Mapaction

OSOCC/RDCC Tuguegarao Centre

On 4th October, following the first hit of Typhoon Parma and at the request of NDCC and UNDAC, TSF installed a telecom centre at Tuguegarao RDCC, Region II. This centre provided the same services as the Manila one. A TSF member provided telecom and logistical support to the UNDAC assessment team that travelled through Region II. The telecom resources were used to ensure the safety of these teams if any problem emerged. In fact, the UNDAC assessment team and the DRCC had a car accident in an area where GSM was only intermittently active. The satellite phone made it possible to call the RDCC Tuguegarao and initiate the rescue procedure.

On 10th October, TSF suspended its support to the Tuguegarao CDR with the departure of the UNDAC teams and the reestablishment of the communications and electricity facilities by the operators.

OSOCC/RDCC Tarlac Centre (Region III)

Upon its return to Manila on 10th October, UNDAC joined the Tarlac-based UNDAC team, responsible for the assessment in Regions I and III. Deployed overnight, TSF installed the OSOCC centre, benefiting especially the World Food Program (WFP) and UNICEF, and provided telecommunication assistance to UNDAC. This centre was maintained throughout the UNDAC mission until 15th October.

Humanitarian calling operations

TSF has set up humanitarian calling operations to provide victims with the ability to stay in touch with their peers in the Philippines and abroad. These operations were carried out in Manila, affected by Typhoon Ketsana and in the Province of Pangasinan, Region I, affected by typhoon Parma. Once mobile networks were restored, two local operators, Smart and Globe, opened calling centres offering national free calls. TSF coordinated its action with these operators in order not to duplicate efforts.

Many Filipinos had mobile phones, but due to power cuts, they could not charge them and did not necessarily have enough money to make phone calls abroad. The Philippine diaspora is an important source of income for the remaining members of the country.

TSF began its humanitarian calling operations on 30th September in humanitarian centres in Pasig and Cainta. A total of 19 shelters in 11 cities benefited from these operations, with an average of 53 beneficiary families per day. Nearly two-thirds of the calls were destined abroad and half of these were for Middle Eastern countries where the Philippine community is important.

For the first time, TSF also launched its first telecom centre for affected populations offering both phone calls and an Internet connection in the Pangasinan Province. The purpose of this additional service was to enable the victims to communicate simultaneously with several relatives and, in particular, to send e-mails to people whom they could not reach by phone.

Map of TSF activities following Typhoon Ketsana & Parma in Philippines in 2009 

With the support of