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Aquino OKs 90-day food aid to evacuees

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 10:00 AM October 14, 2014
MAYON LAVA FRONT A lava wall, almost the height of a four-story building, covered a coconut plantation when Mayon Volcano spewed lava in 2009 in Barangay (village) Mabinit, which is part of the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone in Legazpi City. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

MAYON LAVA FRONT A lava wall, almost the height of a four-story building, covered a coconut plantation when Mayon Volcano spewed lava in 2009 in Barangay (village) Mabinit, which is part of the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone in Legazpi City. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

President Benigno Aquino III has approved Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman’s request for the national government to supply food for 90 days to thousands of families that have fled the rumbling Mayon Volcano in Albay province.

Soliman on Monday told the Senate finance subcommittee that social welfare personnel were now packing food provisions for more than 12,700 families cooped up in temporary shelters. The provisions, including canned goods and nonfood items, would cost the government some P560 million, she said.

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“We’ve already gotten approval from the President for 90 days for 12,000 families,” she told the body.

The government has evacuated around 63,000 people living within the 6- to 8-kilometer-radius around the volcano after Mayon began to emit white smoke and some lava last month.

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Albay officials have been rationing food to the evacuees for three weeks now and have aired an appeal for help. “We’re working on Mayon. They’re telling us 90 days,” Soliman said, citing the advice of volcanologists.

Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told the Senate hearing on the Department of Science and Technology’s budget that the volcano was being monitored for a possible eruption after fresh lava cascaded down its slope.

“We’re still monitoring it because there’s a possibility that it will have its explosive phase. It’s a common pattern in Mayon that after the lava flow, there’s an explosion,” Solidum told the Senate finance subcommittee.

“If we look at past historical eruptions, more of the eruptions are like that. Only in 2009… was [there] no significant explosion,” he added.

Solidum said magma continued to push up in batches, contributing to the swelling of the crater.

“Based on our estimate, the volume should be at least the same as 2009, which was 30 million cubic meters. What was erupted is not that significant; it could be 2 million cu m. So there’s the threatening aspect of the current unrest,” he said.

Solidum could not specify the timeframe of the eruption, saying this depended on the movement of lava up the volcano.

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“If it’s a sluggish movement, then the eruption is not that explosive. But once the magma moves up faster, more volume will be erupted. So that’s quite dangerous,” he said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said Mayon was most likely going through a “soft eruption.” But Solidum said there was no such thing as a soft eruption. He called the volcano’s lava flow a “nonexplosive eruption.”

“People are ‘laymanizing’ it to a soft eruption,” he told the finance subcommittee chaired by Sen. Ralph Recto. “There’s no soft eruption term. Likewise, there is no hard eruption term. It should be explosive or nonexplosive.”

In an interview after the hearing, Soliman said the Department of Social Welfare and Development had prepared 54,000 food packs, including 22,000 that were delivered by trucks to the evacuees on Sunday.

“Simultaneously, the procurement is ongoing,” the secretary said. The national government was augmenting the supply of the provincial government, she added.

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