The Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) organized the three-day virtual Regional Geoscience Congress of Southeast Asia (GEOSEA) and Geological Convention (GEOCON) from 2021. December 6 to 8. With the XPERTO and the Zoom Meetings as the official virtual platforms, the scientific conference had for its theme, “5 (+1) Years After ASEAN Integration: Milestones, Challenges and Perspectives for Geoscientists”. The conference was primarily participated by geologists from the Philippines and Southeast Asian nations. The objective of the 3-day forum was to share and discuss current perspectives and latest innovations from the various fields of the geosciences.
The virtual conference included keynote talks from prominent Filipino geologists, country reports from the Southeast Asian nations, and presentations of scientific papers from various geoscientists. Policy makers, media practitioners, undergraduate students, and other stakeholders likewise participated in the virtual conference.
Country reports from the geological organizations of the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia were the highlights of the morning session of the first day of the virtual conference. Discussions revolved around the status of the respective organizations. This includes the number of practicing geologists, current universities offering geology course, recent advances in the field of geoscience, programs implemented in the past years, challenges encountered, and milestones achieved. One of the common issues pointed out by the Southeast Asian nations was the continuing challenge brought by the pandemic. This was greatly felt globally since 2020, the cancellation of the Regional Geoscience Congress of Southeast Asia being a testament.
After the country reports, geologists went on in presenting their scientific papers until the third day. Majority of the presentations were from the Southeast Asian nations-Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. However, several papers from Japan, China, Australia, Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Canada, United States of America, and United Kingdom were likewise included. The presentations encompassed topics from structural geology, paleontology, resource geology, mining geology, engineering geology, volcanology, petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, marine geology, geological hazards, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation. These various studies from all around the world prove that geology is a vast field of science.
Particularly interesting was the presentations on the karstic terrains in the Philippines. Amidst the ongoing karst subsidence susceptibility mapping of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau
(MGB), studies on karstic terrains still beg for a better understanding. Ms. Liza Socorro Manzano, Chief of the Lands Geological Survey Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, discussed- how the karst landscape degraded in the Boracay island and its eventual restoration. The intrinsic unique features of a karstic terrain that make it a popular tourist destination are the same exact features that deem it susceptible to various geological hazards such as karst subsidence, landslide, and coastal erosion.
Dr. Lawrence Zamoras of the MGB-Region IX showed the different settings of karst subsidence hazards in the Zamboanga Peninsula. These were the results of the geologic mapping of carbonate rock units, sinkhole inventory, and ground penetrating radar survey. Mr. Ross Dominic Agot and Mr. Marcius Elaeo Isip of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau likewise presented recent advances on geomorphologic classification scheme for Philippine karst and object-based image analysis as a method for the semi-automatic delineation of landslides in varying Philippine karst settings, respectively. These are all exciting developments in the mapping of karstic areas.
Equally fascinating were the preliminary results of the geological mapping of the Zamboanga Peninsula by the MGB-Region IX. Zamboanga has always been a geological wonder within the Philippine context. This, along with the Cotabato-Daguma area, are of continental affinity. This makes them unique as the rest of Mindanao Island and the rest of the Philippine archipelago are of an island-arc origin. According to Dr. Zamoras, two terranes comprise the Zamboanga Peninsula-the Zamboanga Terrane and the Labason Terrane. The Labason
Terrane, a relatively smaller portion in the northwest, consists o.f metamorphic rocks as the •, main rock unit. It is then observed to be overlain by Pliocene-Pleistocene sedimentary units
which are bounded by the Titay Fault, considered as the Proto-Sulu Trench. In comparison, an id ntified ocean plate stratigraphy consisting of a Paleocene-Eocene ophiolitic basement, overlain by an Eocene chert sequence, followed by an Oligocene turbidite sequence and then by an Early to Middle Miocene limestone sequence, comprise the Zamboanga Terrane. This covers most of the peninsula.
The afternoon session of the third and final day focused on the status report of the GSP and updates from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). The GSP is ever-growing in number, albeit only by few these past two years due to cancellations and rescheduling of board licensure examinations for geologists. The PRC presented new avenues for the continuing professional development (CPD) to provide more ways of acquiring points.
As stated by Dr. Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., the three-day virtual conference was great. A lot of papers certainly contributed to the understanding, not only of Philippine geology, but that of the Southeast Asian region. This unceasing curiosity of geoscientists provides a motivation to search for answers on how Earth has evolved through time, which inarguably helps us in coping up with this rapid global development.