Thieves steal equipment, cause short circuit inside Mayon monitor station

By Celso Amo

LEGAZPI CITY --- Thieves once again broke into the network monitoring station of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Barangay Lidong in Tabaco City. The break-in was uncovered last January 7 when a maintenance crew found out that the monitoring station was not working. The thieves could have taken advantage of continuous heavy rainfall last week of December up to January 3 due to the tail-end of the cold front. “They should not steal the instruments and accessories of our Mayon network monitoring stations because they are not the properties of Phivolcs but of the people,” said Ed Laguerta, Mayon resident volcanologist based at Ligñon Hill Observatory, during an interview Tuesday. As a result, the Golf Course Mayon Volcano remote station at Padang, Legazpi City would not function due to damaged accessories to power supplies after the theft of batteries and solar panel, according to Laguerta. Items stolen were: Trojan 12 volts 100 Ah batteries worth P37,209.26 and Zocen monocrystalline solar panel worth P3,500 while two solar charge controllers worth P49,565.82 were damaged. “Because they (the robbers) were in a haste, a short circuit took place inside the monitoring station on the Morning Star ProStar MPPT solar charge controller,” Laguerta added. The instruments detect volcanic unrest caused by magmatic activity kilometers deep beneath the volcano which cannot be seen directly. He said the thieves were after the power supply and since they could not use the monitoring instruments nobody buys them. Laguerta said he already asked the assistance of Cedric Daep of Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and the regional director of the Office of Civil Defense(OCD) in Bicol Claudio Yucot regarding the problem. “The LGUs should help Phivolcs secure the Mayon netrowork monitoring station,” said Laguerta. He said thieves had already broken into the monitoring station in Libond twice. The Mayon monitoring network is an integrated system of instruments and benchmarks distributed around the volcano to collect the data needed to forecast volcanic behavior and issue warnings and information to reduce loss of life, property, and economic impact of hazards related to volcanoes. Phivolcs monitoring instruments are housed in vaults inside monitoring stations situated in remote locations. Instruments record real-time data that are sent in real-time to Mayon Volcano Observatory at Ligñon Hill in Legazpi City. Vaults are specifically located in specific barangays for best data quality and transmission. Mayon Volcano’s seismic monitoring network did not detect any volcanic earthquake during the past 24 hours. Weak emission of white steam-laden plumes that drifted west-southwest was observed. Precise leveling data obtained on November 7 to 11, 2017 indicated slight inflation of the edifice relative to September 2017. This is also exhibited in increased rates in the inflationary trends recorded by continuous GPS and tilt since October and November in 2017, respectively. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission was measured at an average of 856 tonnes/day on 03 December 2017. Alert Level 1 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano, which means that it is at abnormal condition.