OVER MAYON EVACUEES PLIGHT

Bicol lawmakers chide Phivolcs

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LEGAZPI CITY: BICOL lawmakers over the weekend slammed the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), over its failure to provide accurate assessments on the status and dangers being posed by the restless Mayon Volcano in Albay.

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The lawmakers particularly blamed Phivolcs for the misery and pathetic situation of around 56,000 evacuees, especially children and older women many of whom are suffering from various illnesses in cramped 46 evacuation centers around the province.

Latest reports indicated that thousands of the evacuees have been treated for various sicknesses while three had died, including a six-year old child, since the evacuation was implemented almost two months ago.

The lawmakers stressed that the suffering of the evacuees could not have happened if Phivolcs did not exaggerate its predictions about the impending eruption that also resulted in additional expenses on the part of the national and provincial governments.

A forced evacuation inside Mayon’s six kilometers permanent danger zone (PDZ) and the seven to eight kilometers expanded danger zone (EDZ) was implemented by the provincial government in its aim for a zero casualty in the event of a major eruption.

The lawmakers however lamented that the current situation of the evacuees who were forced to leave their houses due to Phivolcs frequent warnings of an imminent eruption is comparable to violating their human rights to a decent shelter or abode.

According to Albay 3rd District Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, some 30 families are crammed in six by eight square meter room, while in some evacuation centers, 30 families also share space in seven by nine square meter rooms.

Saying volcanology is not a perfect science, Rep. Edcel Lagman specifically lashed out at Phivolcs for causing undue fear and alarm by regularly announcing that Mayon volcano could erupt anytime.

The volcano is yet to give any sign of an impending major eruption more than 48 days after it initially showed signs of restiveness that prompted Phivolcs to raise its status to Alert Level 3 last September 15.

Gonzalez also questioned Phivolcs director Renato Solidum and Mayon resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta over their failure to rectify a published report “Mayon to erupt in a week, Phivolcs warn” which he believed triggered the evacuation orders of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

“Did you issue this statement to the governor who was quoted in the published report, and why did you not correct it if it’s not your statements?” he asked.

Solidum explained that their bulletin did not mention Mayon will erupt in a week but rather in weeks saying the situation of the increasing magma was leading to an eruption.

The Albay lawmakers said permanent evacuation centers must be given a priority and that forced evacuation under Alert Level 3 should be considered as mere warning and preparation for the evacuation in the event an Alert Level 4 is raised.

The lawmakers said they would recommend the construction of permanent evacuation centers with complete facilities with sufficient number of comfort rooms and steady supply of water.

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  1. Last week, I wrote my reaction about the probable eruption of Mt. Mayon. In it I broached the combined concepts of how Science and Religion influence the established beliefs of our people. Even if you talk to each one of the evacuees, you would still get the opinion/ perception from the majority of them that the Lord Almighty is the Supreme Power who knows what will occur 100% on Earth and not Science. Not even a volcanologist expert can detect 100% when an actual eruption will take place. Also, should the evacuation lasts for more than one month, please don’t give the evacuees all canned sardines and canned whatever. They can form groups and cook fresh veggies and put tiny anchovies or “galunggong” on it. Please be transparent in the budgeting process.