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First AI Research Center in Bicol to address CamSur's decade - long flooding

By Keren Anne Benradas

EVERY time a typhoon hits the Rinconada area in the province of Camarines Sur, particularly the Nabua town, 18 out of 34 communities eventually go underwater, displacing around 2,500 individuals or 250 families who would stay at evacuation facilities for three months, waiting for the water to finally recede.

Out of the five towns in the area, namely, Iriga City, Baao, Buhi, Bato, and Nabua, the latter is the last town to be submerged as it acts as a catch basin of waters coming from other areas.

This is a recent report released by the Nabua Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office. This is also what the newly-launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Center for Community Development or AIRCODE at the Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC) primarily intend to focus on – finally put an end to a 10-year flooding problem in the area through AI research studies, projects and applications.

This is the first AI facility across the Bicol region, funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST – PCIEERD) under its Institutional Development Program.

DOST-PCIEERD Executive Director Enrico Paringit said during the launching on Friday, July 28: “This establishment of this leading-edge center holds tremendous potential for elevating the AI sector in the Bicol. Through AIRCODE, more transformative advancements will pave the way to address developmental hindrances for the Bicolanos.”

Artificial Intelligence, a platform for DRRM

The AIRCODE is now at its birth phase of its initial project called “Project Apaw: Spatiotemporal Forecasting of River Flood using Deep Learning.”

Dr. Joseph Jessie Oñate, who serves as the project leader, said the team’s main goal was to replicate sensors deployed in Balayan creek in two other rivers in Nabua town to provide more accurate data and raise flood alerts before water could penetrate their communities.

The project was initially funded by Asia Pacific Network Inc. Soon, he said, if given bigger funding, they will also deploy censors in the whole Rinconada region.

Oñate said there were various aspects on how AI could be a platform for community developments, particularly through the CSPC’s AI facility. The pillar will be used for disaster risk and reduction management, agriculture, capacity building, environmental protection and creation of data-driven policies.

The forecasts of flood levels and alert system through AIRCODE will deliver real-time updates or at least 5-minute early prediction through social media pages, text messages and websites to better equip the barangays during calamities.

After its resounding launching success, the facility will keep on collecting weather data for at least a whole year to forecast substantial predictions and produce efficient alert advisories in the future.

Oñate also noted that the government as a whole, also created various mitigation projects during typhoons, such as the Bicol River Basin Development Program and other engineering interventions made by the Department of Public Works and Highways for the region.

“However, consultations with MDRRMO discussed that there is only diversion of water flow to other areas but not totally address the persisting problem. So for now, we wanted to utilize the AI facility to create forewarning signals to prepare the residents during those times,” he said.

He also expressed his earnest gratitude to the DOST-PCIEERD and the full house support of CSPC headed by officer-in-charge Dulce Atian.

The department granted P5 million for the facility including 15 working AI stations that can handle hi-resolution graphic processing units and deep learning apps. Its servers can handle even in remote areas.

Oñate also said that one of the challenges of AI enthusiasts is the lack of equipment and infrastructure that may impede the development of their models. So the facilities sponsored by the DOST-PCIEERD bring a great help to the students and the AI community in the Bicol region.

CSPC’s greater heights of research and extension

CSPC OIC President Atian was proud to say that the institution, in transit to become Polytechnic State University of Bicol, now promotes AIRCODE as a symbol and testament to the commitment of harnessing the potential of AI for the betterment of our community through research and extension projects.

Aitan said this innovation was a milestone towards achieving developments in the community through the works of its students and faculty members.

Also a professor himself, Oñate said the CSPC’s Center for Research and Development Manual includes AI and computer technology. It is also aligned with the national government's Ambisyon Natin 2040 and Science & Technology Roadmap.

Back in 2019, there was no IDP facility in the Bicol region, so the institution initiated to apply for the program. To date, it is now one of the first facilities in the region, aside from the facility in Daet, Camarines Norte.

Responsible AI use

“AI has been existing for years now. Its generative aspect has become trending and up in the face of millennials, particularly in the Philippines because of some intuitive apps; and that’s the good side that it has become known for,” Oñate said.

However, Oñate said they have ethics to follow in order to use AI responsibly.

“We mask information for every data we collect, especially for those that incur personal information. Before we allow research papers among our students, we require a research ethics proposal alongside it,” he added. (PIA Camarines Sur)


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