Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be used to predict the occurrence of floods in a low-lying town in Bicol, giving officials and residents ample time to prepare for evacuation.
Weather data to be collected through AI will be used to develop an early flood warning system in Nabua, Camarines Sur, a flood-prone municipality located six to eight hours by land from Manila.
However, at least one more year of weather data collection is needed to provide AI with enough information to make a forecast, said Josep Jessie S. Oñate, a faculty member of the Camarines Sur Polytechnic College (CSPC).
Oñate made these remarks in an interview in late July minutes before the launch of the AI Research Center for Community Development (AIRCoDE) in Camarines Sur, which he also heads.
Considered as the first AI lab in the Bicol region, the P5.9 million facility was bankrolled by The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology, Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) as part of its efforts to bring innovation in the regions.
“CSPC is gaining momentum in its pursuit in developing its research capabilities, and we have no doubt that AIRCODE will be another success story for them and for the Bicolanos,” DOST-PCIEERD executive director Enrico C. Paringit said in a statement.
DOST-PCIEERD has already poured P234.4 million on cutting-edge lab equipment, infrastructure, specialized software, and other crucial operational needs for our research and development firms, Paringit added.
The Camarines Sur lab is one of the 49 already put up nationwide. It is expected to monitor and analyze weather data collected by, among others, a sensor installed right by the Balayan creek, a waterway that cuts through the school.
For the past ten years, the school — as well as the rest of Nabua — has been regularly submerged in floodwaters.
This is because Nabua is traversed by two rivers, serves as the catchment basin of several towns in Camarines Sur and Albay provinces, and is situated in a low-lying area, Oñate explained.
Owing to its location, it occasionally takes two to three months for the waters to recede in the area, according to a DOST-PCIEERD media brief.
In 2020 alone, 18 of Nabua’s 34 villages have been waterlogged and approximately 520 families or roughly 2,471 people have stayed at evacuation camps, a report from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) said.
To help alleviate the situation, AIRCODE will install one more sensor at another river by September, Oñate said.
These initiatives will help make “a genuine difference by estimating flood levels and offering real-time notifications through websites, social media pages, and SMS in order to better prepare our community for calamities,” Oñate said.