Meteorology Bill passes second reading in Parliament

A bill to establish a multi-hazard early warning system for earthquakes, tsunamis and natural disasters has passed the second reading in the Parliament.

The legislation called the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Bill 2020 passed second reading in the Parliament on Tuesday with a number of Members of Parliament also praising the bill.

They also called for more awareness on the new multi-hazard early warning system for school children as well as village residents to ensure they are well versed and stay informed.

The Member of Parliament for Vaimauga East, Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, applauded the bill and said his constituency strongly supports it. 

He said Samoa is an island surrounded by the ocean so the bill is important to protect its people from natural disasters.

Emphasising that it would be good to teach students about the various levels of earthquakes, Sulamanaia added many laws are enacted by the Government but not all people in rural communities knew they existed.

“We have to inform the people of our country When earthquakes strike, we need to teach them in the schools about earthquakes so growing up children are aware,” he said.

“We need to inform the country. A lot of laws are being made but our people do not know. People have to be informed.”

He said tracks in coastal villages leading to higher ground, which would enable the local population to flee tsunamis, are important for villages in his constituency such as Fagalii, Vailele and Moataa which are located on the shoreline.

Contributing to the debate, the Palauli-le-Falefa M.P. Faumuina Tiatia Liuga suggested the Government bring in electric cars, which he says should attract lower import tariffs as the country begins the transition to move away from fossil fuel vehicles.

The enactment of the bill will also lead to the creation of the new Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Division within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment [M.N.R.E.].

Faumuina said as part of the new M.N.R.E. Division’s attempts to address climate change and protect the environment, the Government should improve its waste management practices by removing and selling rusty old vehicles abroad for additional revenue.

He said businesses should also be provided with incentives to work with the Government in its goal to lower fuel emissions and address greenhouse gas emissions.

The current location of the Samoa Meteorological Service [S.M.S.] at Mulinuu also came under scrutiny with the M.P. claiming traffic gets congested and the Government should consider relocating it for the benefit of the staff and the public.

The timing of the bill’s passage through second reading was also praised by the former Deputy Prime Minister and Anoamaa West M.P. Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, who said it is important as people need to familiarise themselves on what to do in the event of an earthquake or tsunami.

“Maybe once or twice a year to be prepared, we should have drills so we can be prepared when a natural disaster happens,” said Fonotoe.

“It’s important because we received reports after the tsunami in 2009 that warnings were issued but some people went to the seawall to look at the waves instead of going to higher ground to save their lives.”

The daily weather updates provided by the S.M.S. through a website and social media also drew praise from the M.P., who said Samoa should be vigilant despite projections of no cyclones during the Christmas and New Year period.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who introduced the bill in his capacity as the Minister for the M.N.R.E., said the S.M.S. was established 108 years ago when the country was under German-rule.

And the passage of the bill through second reading marked the first time the work of the S.M.S. was outlined in legislation, he said.

The Pacific region is working toward mitigating the effects of climate change and global warming hence the decision by the Cabinet to draft the bill.

Tuilaepa said there are warning sirens already in place with six machines placed strategically at six different locations around Samoa to monitor earthquakes.

The six-part bill is a lengthy piece of legislation that covers the organisation and the duties and responsibilities of the S.M.S. which will continue as the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Division after the legislation was passed. 

As part of the bill there are also crimes punishable by imprisonment for those who interfere with the work assigned to the Division. 

The bill now goes to the committee stage for recommendations and changes.

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