Phivolcs modernization bill hurdles Senate panel

By Wilnard Bacelonia

February 12, 2024, 6:14 pm

<p><em>(PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)</em></p>

(PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – The Senate Committee on Science and Technology approved the consolidated measures seeking to modernize the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) at the conclusion of its second hearing on Monday.

Panel chair Senator Alan Peter Cayetano stressed the importance of having a good system to cascade information as part of preparations for natural calamities and disasters.

“God forbid that the ‘Big One’ hits Metro Manila, and it can also hit Mindanao, Metro Cebu, or Baguio City. Not only should we consider the preparedness, but the cascading of information kasi as presented earlier, pwedeng down ang lahat ng [communication] lines (because as presented earlier, all communication lines can go down),” Cayetano said.

The lawmaker recalled that when Supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country in 2013, it was discovered that there were only 30 satellite phones in the whole government network held by the military.

Cayetano said this was the reason there were no updates on the ground on the first 24 hours of the typhoon in parts of Leyte and Samar.

“In the future we’d like to ask the Metro Manila Development Authority and local government units, if something does happen, are we dependent on cell phones? Kapag nawalan ng signal, do we have an alternative? Nagkaroon din ng problema ang satellite phones noon sa (If we lose signal, do we have an alternative? We also encountered issues in satellite phones before in) charging,” he said, adding Phivolcs should have these considerations in its modernization plans.

Cayetano also cited the importance of mapping public infrastructures along fault lines while checking their lines of communication.

Phivolcs director Teresito Bacolcol said the agency usually provides information first to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and Office of Civil Defense, which will be the ones to disseminate the information.

Bacolcol said Phivolcs also posts real-time information through its social media accounts.

Regarding the demand for more staff in Phivolcs, Cayetano suggested that the agency come up with a scholarship program that would entice Filipino students to take up specific in-demand science courses such as hazard mapping.

“We’ll try to put something in the bill that would encourage Phivolcs to have a special scholarship program,” Cayetano assured. (PNA)