Learning from the past and community engagement are crucial in disaster preparedness. But the technology developed by the joint efforts of a Belgian professor and his Filipino partners might prove crucial in saving thousands of people around the Taal Volcano in the future.
The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST- PHIVOLCS), in collaboration with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) funded by the Government of Belgium, concluded Wednesday its five-year Taal Volcano Project at the Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay City.
Titled “Reducing the Impact of Volcanic Disaster in the Philippines: Towards Improved Capacities of Human Communities to Cope with Volcanic Hazards,” the project, initially launched in 2015, covered various research themes, including improvement of the physicochemical monitoring of the Main Crater Lake.
“A very important accomplishment was the development of a continuous Carbon Dioxide monitoring system at the acidic lake of the Main Crater, with real time data transmission via SMS to Taal Volcano Observatory,” said DOST Undersecretary Renato Solidum Jr.
“This would enable the Institute to detect early signs of Taal's activity as increase in Carbon Dioxide typically precedes other precursors of volcanic activity such as increase in volcanic earthquake occurrences,” Solidum added.
Belgium has invested half a million euros (about P29.3 million) in the project. “We believe that scientific cooperation between our two countries can lead to better lives and reducing poverty,” said the official statement from the Belgian embassy.
Under the leadership of University of Brussels Professor Alain Bernard, the group worked together on Taal, one of the five most dangerous volcanos in the world, to improve scientific capacity to predict an explosion.
Considered one of the world’s top scientists, Bernard developed a way to better predict an explosion by measuring CO2 bubbles in the water “like looking at a glass of champagne.”
Such technology might hold the key to evacuating thousands of people around active volcanic sites when the time arrives.
Solidum praised Bernard’s work, noting that "the continuous CO2 monitoring in an acidic lake is sent in real time to TVO. "
According to Mylene Martinez-Villegas, Chief Science Research Science Specialist of PhiVolcs, the involvement of community members in disaster preparedness matters.
“This will improve the people’s awareness and appreciation of hazards, such as science-based understanding of alert levels and ensuring proper timely action,” said Martinez-Villegas.
Taal Volcano has a history of violent eruptions, notably in 1754, 1911, and 1965 when thousands were killed.
The project involved three components.
The first is enhanced detection of a potential volcanic event in time, highlighted by the monitoring of gases specifically CO2 in the Taal Crater Lake.
The second concerns community resilience, which includes working with eight pilot barangays from four municipalities enhanced disaster risk reduction plans focused on volcano hazard.
The third component is the partnership between the ULB and the University of the Philippines-Los Banos concerning short- and long-term impacts of volcanic ash deposits on soil properties.
“The importance of people remembering what Taal can do–while it’s quiet—is important. When the time comes, hopefully, they will know what to do,” Martinez-Villegas explained.