Netizens defend Phivolcs amid criticisms

Bianca Velasco
'Stupidity is blaming a scientific institution for failure in doing the impossible: predicting volcanic eruptions,' one netizen says

MANILA, Philippines – Netizens have rallied behind  Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) after government officials criticized the agency for its supposed lapses in issuing timely warnings on the Taal Volcano eruption

Netizens took to social media to shield Phivolcs from criticism after Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr called for a  House investigation into how Phivolcs supposedly failed to issue proper warnings on the eruption of Taal Volcano. 

Special Envoy of Public Diplomacy to China Ramon Tulfo echoed Barzaga and even suggested in a tweet that Phivolcs offficials should be “executed” for failing to do their jobs.

Difficult work

Others, however, disagreed with the officials and rallied behind Phivolcs,  citing the difficulty in predicting volcanic eruptions. (READ: Malacañang defends Phivolcs amid criticism over Taal eruption warnings)

Philip Jamilla of rights group Karapatan dismissed Barzaga’s bid to investigate Phivolcs as grandstanding, and cited the complex process behind volcanic activity monitoring which should not be underestimated by those who are not familiar with it.

“Eruptions are rarely predictable – if not unpredictable – and Phivolcs can only issue warnings based on current seismic activity. Government agencies at this point should focus on relief and rescue operations and preparing for the hazardous eruption being warned by Phivolcs,” Jamilla said in a tweet.

Joseph Christian Datinguinoo said on Facebook, “Stupidity is blaming a scientific institution for failure in doing the impossible: predicting volcanic eruptions.” 

Scientists hard at work

Derik Cumagun said experts were still the best resource persons in times of natural disasters. “Now is a really good time to listen to the experts. Not to pseudo-scientists trying to capitalize on the calamity just so their blogs could rake in more likes,” he said.

Raffy Magno thanked Phivolcs workers for their dedication in their job.

Hanggang ngayon, ilang araw na ‘yan walang mga tulog, pero nakakausap nang maayos, malumanay. Marami akong tanong kanina at makulit na para sigurado akong naintindihan ko lahat, dis-oras ng gabi, pero kalmado at maayos ang pagkaka-explain,” Magno shared.

(Until now, they haven’t been getting enough sleep the past days but they can still communicate well, calmly.  I had many questions and I wanted to make sure that I understand what’s happening but they still managed to explain everything calmly and properly.

Netizens also cited the importance of Phivolcs during times of disasters.

What does Phivolcs actually do?

Phivolcs, which is under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), is responsible for posting volcano bulletins, earthquake information, and tsunami advisories and warnings to alert affected areas on how should they respond.

As early as March 28, 2019, Phivolcs issued a news bulletin putting Taal Volcano under Alert Level 1, meaning no hazardous eruption was imminent. 

On December 1, 2019, the agency maintained Taal Volcano under Alert Level 1 after  recording a high number of  tremors pointing to a possible hazardous eruption, though not imminent. (READ: Taal Volcano’s 2020 eruption: What we know so far)

Phivolcs raised Alert Level 2 on Taal Volcano at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 12; Level 3 at 4 pm; and Level 4 at 7:30 pm. At this level, Phivolcs recommended evacuation and prevent reentry within the 14-kilometer permanent danger zone. (READ: FAST FACTS: Taal Volcano alert levels)

Phivolcs officials said they were surprised by how quick the Taal Volcano activity unfolded. This gave local government units less time to evacuate residents within the danger zone.

Experts noted that there is a high degree of unpredictability when it comes to complex volcanic processes.

Phivolcs also shared an infographic of its monitoring findings on 3 active volcanoes: Taal Volcano in Batangas, Mayon Volcano in Albay, and Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon on Tuesday, January 14.

Para sa inyong kaalaman, ang DOST-PHIVOLCS ay nagbabantay 24 oras sa mga aktibong bulkan sa bansa,” Phivolcs said in their caption.

(For your information, Phivolcs monitors the active volcanoes in the country for 24 hours.)

Was there anything that Phivolcs and the concerned LGUs could have done to respond better to the Taal Volcano eruption? Drop them down in the comments section! –