Mayon volcano erupts as Taal and Kanlaon also acting up; officials firm up 90-day plan in Albay

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda

LEGASPI CITY — As Mayon Volcano in Albay province erupted and continues acting up, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew to Legaspi City with his Cabinet members and other officials and conducted a briefing on the status of preparations for assistance to victims and related activities.

Marcos and the officials initially distributed relief goods and other assistance to those affected by the Mayon Volcano eruptions from at least 10 cities and towns.

At the briefing attended by many Cabinet members and local officials, a 90-day plan on how to handle Mayon Volcano’s eruption was firmed up as alert level was raised in the six-kilometer radius surrounding the volcano, forcing the evacuation of some 30,000 families.

The officials also firmed plans in case more destructive eruptions of the volcano occur even as Taal Volcano in Batangas and Kanlaon Volcano in Negros were also acting up.

At the briefing, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)  said up to 40,000 residents will have to be moved to safer ground if experts raise the alert level status of Mayon Volcano from 3 to 4 where areas within eight kilometer radius from the volcano will be evacuated.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in its Wednesday bulletin that Alert Level 3 remains over Mayon Volcano.

In the last 24 hours, it recorded seven volcanic quakes and 309 rockfall events. There was also “very slow effusion of lava” from Mayon’s summit crater.

National data showed that around 14,000 residents within the 6-kilometer danger zone have been evacuated so far.

Meanwhile, 35 residents evacuated in the wake of Mayon Volcano’s heightened unrest have reportedly shown respiratory problems, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

The DOH said the number was reported as of June 13, noting that the respiratory issues include cough, colds, and sore throat.

The DOH earlier advised Albay residents to avoid exposure to volcanic ash, especially those already suffering from health problems such as bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma. It warned that exposure may cause nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illnesses, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation, and minor skin problems.

Albay Gov. Grex Lagman said that for 90 days, ₱196,711,000 would be needed to provide for those affected by Mayon’s unrest — covering food, water and sanitation, health emergency services, and temporary learning spaces, among others.

So far, ₱30 million from the province’s quick response fund has been allocated for the Mayon Volcano operation, the governor said.

Marcos said that according to an estimate, ₱30 million can only sustain 14 days of response.

“I think our working number should be 90 days,” Marcos said.

“The province is already providing ₱30 million, we will have to make up the difference for the continuous…in terms, I suppose food, non-food items and all the other arrangements that we’re going to have to make,” the president added.

Marcos told officials from different government agencies who attended the briefing to see how much would be needed for the response.

“Let’s go into that in terms of the requirements that the evacuees are going to need… We have to get it absolutely right para measured ang response natin [so we would have a measured response],” he said.

Marcos also said authorities should not wait until the 14 days are over before providing the necessary funds.

“We should use as a minimum number, 45 days. Yung [The] 45 days to 90 days come from both the science of DOST (Department of Science and Technology) and the experience of locals.”

Marcos also said groups could be tapped to look for ways to provide activities or even classes for children who are in the evacuation centers to keep them preoccupied.

“We have to think hard about what do we do about the schooling of children,” he said.

“There is a mental health aspect to that, hindi natin dapat kalimutan [we should not forget],” the president added.