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Virtual reality for disaster preparedness in the Philippines

Image credit: www.pia.gov.ph

A virtual disaster resilience programme has been launched in the Philippines in a bid to improve disaster preparedness and further scale up community resilience. 

The local government of Muntinlupa City has recently unveiled the Mobile Learning Hub, an application that gives insights on disaster and emergency protocols through virtual reality. The Hub is a project of the Department of Disaster Resilience and Management (DDRM) and is the first of this type of disaster preparedness project in Metro Manila. 

Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi referred to this project as a state-of-the-art ‘learning bus’. He highlighted that once open to the public, the Hub shall provide better disaster prevention tips by using VR representations.  

The Mayor explained that city residents looking to get more insights on disaster preparedness can visit the Hub’s VR area. Once inside, residents will be given VR headsets and instructions. The Hub shall provide a realistic backdrop of what transpires during a calamity through holistic, visual and sound-based reflections of various weather disturbances. 

The Hub has an interactive lecture area where informative materials and videos on disaster prevention, first aid response and management, life support protocols and other calamity preparedness measures shall be showcased. Learning materials covering COVID-19 protective measures shall also form part of the exhibit. 

It is anticipated that as residents experience being in “close-to-actual” scenarios during natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and storms, they will be more familiar with emergency and disaster procedures. Residents are likewise exposed virtually to other disasters like bomb explosions, landslides and even chemical poisoning through the virtual hub. 

The City Mayor added that the Learning Hub can be utilised to empower and entice more residents of the Muntinlupa to improve their preparedness. This is one solution that the City said will spread more awareness on climate change adaptation and risk reduction. 

For his part, Muntinlupa City DDRM Chief Erwin Alfonso said they are looking at providing mainstream disaster mitigation and resiliency measures. This they plan to achieve by providing different learning resources to communities and sectors considered more vulnerable to certain calamities. 

The DDRM Chief also stated: “The Learning Hub is expected to visit several communities during the time of the pandemic. [H]ealth and safety protocols will be strictly implemented and regular disinfection of the facility will be conducted.”  

As of writing, the complete schedule of operations of the Mobile Learning Hub is yet to be released on DDRM’s Facebook page. 

This recent addition to the local city government’s roster of disaster preparedness schemes comes on the heels of the release of the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index (CMCI). The Index showed that Muntinlupa ranked first in resiliency among highly urbanised cities. In terms of competitiveness, Muntinlupa ranked fifth while the City of Manila topped the list, followed closely by Davao, Pasay and Makati.

The CMCI is an annual ranking created by the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Competitiveness Council which covers over 140 cities and municipalities nationwide. The criteria used by the Index include economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructure and resiliency to calamities and disasters. 

The local and national governments are making strides in their rollout of innovative projects intended to ensure smooth transactions in government. With this objective on the table, the government allocated a bigger budget this year to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). A big chunk of this budget will be allotted for the department’s National Broadband Programme or the NBP.  

This month, as cited in a report by OpenGov Asia, the DICT said it has installed 4,395 live broadband sites under its Free Wi-Fi for All Programme (FW4A) This number is a massive increase from the number of internet sites put up since 2016.

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