Columnist Ramon Tulfo in hot water again after insulting Phivolcs amid Taal eruption

January 16, 2020 - 6:59 PM
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Ramon Tulfo (Ramon Tulfo/Released)

Columnist Ramon Tulfo got schooled online after he falsely accused the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) of not warning the public of Taal Volcano’s eruption.

A Cavite lawmaker also previously sought to probe Phivolcs on the same matter.

Tulfo insulted the state-run agency last Sunday, which was when the eruption happened, and threatened to execute the scientists there.

“There was no warning about the eruption of Taal Volcano! If I were to have my way, I would have all the Phivocs people executed!” he said.

Phivolcs, however, had been monitoring and regularly posting updates on its social accounts and news bulletins on its website of Taal volcano’s seismic activities since alert level 1 was raised last March 2019.

The developments the volcano made throughout last year were also picked up and reported by mainstream media.

Twitter user @rupertnotholmes pointed this out and made screenshots of previous Phivolcs news bulletins when the volcano was still in level 1.

The alert level was only raised to 2 on January 12 at 2:30 p.m. then was increased again to alert level 3 at 4 p.m.

By 7:30 p.m, PHIVOLCS raised it to the current alert level 4.

Maoi Arroyo, a World Economic Forum leader, also emphasized that volcanoes are inherently unpredictable.

“Volcanos don’t send notifications. Challenging you to a debate on any topic. All profits to Taal relief,” Arroyo said.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), volcanoes only provide warning signs or precursors before they erupt.

These signs include noticeable steaming activities, increase in the frequency of earthquakes and small changes in heat flow.

Unlike weather patterns, the elements or factors that could lead to an eruption occur underneath the ground, thereby making volcano monitoring more difficult.

Another user @BROMABS cited the agency’s lack of resources that could’ve improved their volcano monitoring and eruption predictions.

Phivolcs have recently sought the assistance of its partners in the United States—the USGS and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—to help them with acquiring additional data through their satellite platforms.

“Ito pong datos na ito, siya rin po yung pwedeng gamitin para i-calculate ano po yung volume ng magma na pumasok,” Phivolcs said.

Palace defends Phivolcs

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that President Rodrigo Duterte was satisfied with the work of Phivolcs.

“Magaling itong si Dr [Renato] Solidum. Mahusay magpaliwanag,” Panelo said.

However, Panelo said Malacañang would not prevent the Congress from investigating the agency, citing that it’s their legislative function.

“We cannot step them or discourage them. That is their call,” he said.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite previously filed House Resolution 643 to question the agency’s supposed lack of announcements from the time Taal volcano’s alert level was raised to 1.

Barzaga also alleged that Phivolcs did not disseminate information when the alert level was further raised to the current alert level 4.

“Due to lack of information, in the afternoon of the same day, while Taal Volcano is already manifesting increased volcanic activity, people still traveled towards it, while those who were already near the Taal volcano were shocked to see the smoke spewing from it and had to immediately flee under the dangers of ashfall,” part of the resolution read.