MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Monday launched a new app to bring bulletins on volcanic activities straight to mobile phones for free.
The app "VolcanoPH Info" is initially available for Android phones in Filipino, and can be downloaded via a QR code.
Users will be greeted with pictures of volcanoes, while the menu page contains bulletins, infographics for every volcano, details about their acidity, level of sulfur dioxide, volcanic gas, carbon dioxide measurement, upwelling, amount of plume from the cater, ground deformation and tremor events which can indicate a volcano's activity.
Each volcano is color-coordinated for easy identification: Mount Pinatubo is green, Mount Bulusan is fuchsia, Mount Kanlaon is orange.
Recommendations to local government units and warnings to the public are also included.
"Puwede na makuha ng atin mga kababayan diresto sa kanilang mga Android cellphone ang lahat ng (The public can now get straight from their Android cellphone all) information on the updates ng (regarding) volcano," said Phivolcs officer-in-charge and Science Undersecretary Renato Solidum.
"Mga bulletin, mga datos, araw-araw... 'Yon ang una naming ilalabas. At siyempre, sa mga susunod pa na panahon, magdadag kami ng information," he added.
(Bulletins, relevant data, every day... That's what we'll be releasing first. And of course, we'll add more information soon.)
The app is free and was 100-percent developed by in-house Filipino programmers.
"Daily volcano data monitoring can be reviewed in one app. And therefore, the public is armed with a reference to fact check fake information especially those that mimic DOST PHIVOLCS issuances," Solidum said.
Ma. Antonia Bornas, DOST-PHIVOLCS Chief Science and Research Specialist, said the app's salient feature is its infographics, avoiding "a lot of words" and providing concise data.
For some residents in Tanauan, Batangas who suffered from the eruption of Taal Volcano last year, the app would have made a massive difference if it was already available before the calamity.
"Kung may automatic na merong ganung application, pwedeng isama ang mga hayop sa paglikas. Di masu-surprise nang ganun," said 32-year-old Julius Magpantay.
"Sobrang malaking tulong, kaso isang click lang ninyo, alam ninyo na kung ano ang mangyayari. Makakapaghanda kami nang mas maaga," added Erwin Maala, a barangay official in Barangay Banadero.
Jevelyn Barairo, another a resident, agrees with Magpantay and Maala.
"Ang alaga ko pong kabayo ay tatlo. Tapos may alaga akong baboy, 15. Siguro aabutin ng baboy namin kung aanuhin (ibebenta) namin, P80,000 din," said Barairo, who lost most of her properties and farm animals to the eruption.
Had they known Taal's eruption beforehand, they would have been better prepared, she said.
"Ubos pati mga alaga naming hayop," said Barairo.
Solidum said they are working to bring the app to iOS users and make it available in other languages.
"Yung competencies ng ating staff ay more sa paglikha ng applications for android devices. Balak po nating i-explore yung pag develop po ng apps sa iOS. For our staff, kailangan po i-build ang competencies for iOS encoding or we can probably .. contact people who can code in iOS... It's a specialized skill," said Bornas.
The app is also not yet PWD-friendly.
"We will strive to address those concerns," said Solidum.
VolcanoPH Info is PHIVOLCS' fourth app after Fault Finder (launched in 2016), Hazard Hunter (launched in 2019), and How Safe is my House.
Solidum said they wouldn't be monetizing VolcanoPH Info.
Meanwhile, he said they were in the process of getting Hazard Hunter patented.
"'Yong Hazard Hunter PH, many countries are also asking us about it. Pinapa-patent natin ito (We are patenting). So it would be a good thing kung ma-patent natin ito ng Philippines, kasi (because) some countries are thinking about what we have done," he said.
Solidum said the Hazard Hunter application is one-of-a-kind as no other government had put up anything similar to it yet.
The application allows users from businessmen to families to discover all possible hazards they might be exposed to at a certain location.
Solidum noted the VolcanoPH Info app would not replace the regular text blasts sent by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
"They will still do it, especially for early warning of events. Hindi lang sa volcano, pati na rin sa (Not only regarding volcanoes but also) earthquake and weather-related hazards. In fact, we have 2 teams working this out with NDRRMC for their early warning systems," he said.