The Philippines is in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are common. The country has 24 active and 27 are potentially active volcanoes. Of the 24 active volcanoes, only 10 are being monitored. Moreover, of the 10 monitored, only two—Taal and Mayon—have complete monitoring systems.
The human and economic impacts of an insufficiently equipped active volcano is high.
As an example, Cabalian Volcano, an active volcano in Southern Leyte, does not have sufficient monitoring instruments. If it is not monitored, around 240,000 individuals and 30 airports could be affected by volcanic ash if it erupts.
Meanwhile, the country also lags in earthquake monitoring, with only 117 seismic stations, while Taiwan, which is one-tenth the size of the Philippines, has 194.
With all these concerns, a bill was filed at the House of Representatives for the modernization of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-Phivolcs).
DOST-Phivolcs Director Teresito C. Bacolcol shared all the data and information that would justify the urgency of the passage of the modernization bill at the consultative meeting at the institute’s headquarters in Quezon City on April 18.
The meeting aimed to get inputs and insights from key stakeholders from the local government units (LGUs), other national government agencies, academic institutions and private sector to further improve the provisions of the bill.
The bill aims to modernize the operations of the agency and enhance its ability to provide timely and accurate information, warnings, and recommendations to the public, government agencies, and other concerned stakeholders in the event of natural disasters.
It includes allocating funds, (around P7 billion), for the acquisition and maintenance of state-of-the-art equipment, infrastructure improvement, research and development, and capacity building of DOST-Phivolcs personnel.
Bacolcol explained the need to strengthen the monitoring systems and capability of DOST-Phivolcs.
He said it needs to add more seismic stations in the country to effectively increase the detection and locate small earthquakes, particularly for faults that exhibit low activity prior to large events.
In addition, a denser network would help reveal active faults that have no clear surface expressions.
At the same time, the institute plans to establish at least 50 more stations for tsunami detection for coastal communities at risk to tsunami, develop effective warning systems, and install sensors offshore close to tsunami sources.
Bacolcol also said that 21 out of 24 active volcanoes have incomplete hazard maps, putting at risk 28 provinces.
Meanwhile, 27 potentially active volcanoes have incomplete hazard maps, putting 17 provinces at risk.
He also emphasized that only 38 out of 82 provinces have complete earthquake hazard maps.
“Filipinos would greatly benefit from the passage of this modernization bill. Many of us are aware of the impacts of destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Casualties, property losses…will be prevented or minimized if we have adequate monitoring equipment across the country. This will greatly help us formulate policy recommendations and guidance to our LGUs and communities,” Bacolcol said. On the other hand, House Committee on Science and Technology (S&T) Secretary Donald Amado Montes Caballero shared that the DOST-Phivolcs modernization bill has already been approved at the committee level.
A substitute bill is being prepared to consolidate 12 measures filed in the chamber.
Caballero explained that the substitute bill will be referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, and on Appropriations.
The resulting committee report will then be presented for plenary deliberations for the approval of the House.
The DOST-Phivolcs modernization bills were introduced by Reps. Joey Sarte Salceda, Ron P. Salo, Carlito S. Marquez, Ralph G. Recto, Anna York P. Bondoc, Michael L. Romero, Angelo Marcos Barba, Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, Jude A. Acidre, Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, Ferdinand Alexander A. Marcos, Rufus B. Rodriguez, Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo, Richard I. Gomez, Joseph Gilbert F. Violago, Jeyzel Victoria C. Yu and Dante S. Garcia.
The stakeholders’ consultative meeting was spearheaded by the DOST-Legislative Liaison Office, in partnership with the DOST-Phivolcs and the House Committee on S&T.
Image credits: DOST-Phivolcs