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Go home, some Mayon evacuees told

DESPITE being located in the  6-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon Volcano, residents  of Barangay Matnog, Daraga, Albay province, harvest flowers for  All Saint’s Day. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/ INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

DESPITE being located in the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon Volcano, residents of Barangay Matnog, Daraga, Albay province, harvest flowers for All Saint’s Day. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/ INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

LEGAZPI CITY—Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum said evacuees living beyond the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone (PDZ) of Mayon Volcano could go home.

However, Solidum said, these residents should be ready to immediately return to the evacuation centers should Alert Level 4 be raised over the volcano, as the volcano could still erupt at any time.

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Solidum spoke to reporters during a visit to the city on Friday at the sidelines of the consultative meeting with Phivolcs scientists, local disaster officials and House representatives from Bicol over the status of Mayon’s restiveness.

In the same meeting, congressmen from Albay province, who initiated the conference held at the National Economic Development Authority regional office here, questioned the policy of continued evacuation of over 54,000 individuals from Mayon’s danger zones, with 1st District Rep. Edcel “Greco” Lagman Jr. calling it “premature.”

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Solidum stressed that while there might be a lull because of the “sluggish” movement of the magma rising from the belly of Mayon, an eruption could still happen any time, the reason they could not lower the Alert Level 3 hoisted over the volcano.

The volcano has been quiet over the last week. The bulletin released by the Phivolcs on Sunday said no volcanic earthquake or rockfall had been noted in the past 24 hours.

Cedric Daep, head of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo), however, said they could not just order the 13,622 families, or 54,070 persons, living in temporary shelters to return home.

These families, residents of the 6-km PDZ and 7-8 km extended danger zone (EDZ) surrounding Mayon Volcano, have been staying in 45 evacuation centers for 48 days now after Mayon showed signs of imminent eruption on Sept. 15.

Daep stressed that they were following the “principle of safety” in disaster operations and evacuated all those in the danger zones even if the Phivolcs recommended the evacuation of only those from the PDZ.

“What will happen if we decamp? If the volcano erupts, all of them will be in danger. We only want safety for them. That’s our doctrine,” Daep said.

But Daep said they would evaluate this week the actual number of residents in danger zones after the Phivolcs installed 138 new markers defining boundaries from 6-km to 10-km radius of the volcano.

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Apsemo records show that there are 2,898 families (15,049 individuals) within the 6-km PDZ; 4,352 families (20,730 persons) in the 7-8 km EDZ; and 17,526 families (81,700 persons) from the 8-10 km radius of the southeastern quadrant of the volcano.

Lagman, during the meeting, said the P200 million so far spent for the evacuees could have been saved or used to build permanent evacuation centers if those from the EDZ were not evacuated.

In fact, he said, the evacuees faced more hazards in the shelters, as “they were packed like sardines there.”

Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis C. Bichara also questioned the authority of Apsemo to recommend the evacuation of residents near the volcano.

“The Phivolcs should be the main authority, they should be the sole office to issue a recommendation,” he said.

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