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Lagman decampment orders outside the 6-km defied

By Rhaydz B. Barcia


Legazpi City--- Neophyte Guinobatan town Mayor Paul Chino Garcia defied the decampment order of Albay governor Edcel Grecon “Grex” Lagman, stating that he could not risk the lives of the residents and no amount of money can pay off the precious lives of the people as the volcanic debris ejected by Mount Mayon tumbling down the two channels where the residents’ dwells.


Garcia’s defiance came after Albay governor Edcel Grecon “Grex” Lagman told the mayors of Guinobatan and Sto. Domingo to send home their constituents who evacuated outside the six-km danger zone.


Garcia said he will not decamp the residents of Tandarora and Maninila villages who evacuated on June 9 to the evacuation center for the safety of 905 families or more than 3,000 persons in a radio interview over DZGB.


The mayor stated that his decision to evacuate the residents was based on the current situation where the two barangays were surrounded or sandwiched by two big channels wherein the volcanic debris ejected from the crater of Mount Mayon tumbled down in the gullies putting the lives of the people into great dangers.


“I respect governor Lagman’s directive but I cannot compromise and could not risk the lives of the people. No amount of money can save the lives of the people,” he said.


Garcia said that if the governor wants to check the danger being faced by his constituents, he should personally visit the Tandarora and Maninila villages to check the situation and safety of the people.


Garcia said that the displaced families in Guinobatan were coordinated with the provincial government immediately after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level status of Mount Mayon.


“We attended a series of briefings with the governor. The provincial government of Albay even sent a truck in the area. President Ferdinand Marcos along with governor Lagman even visited the evacuees in Mauraro,” the neophyte Mayor Garcia.


On Monday, Albay Gov. Edcel Greco Lagman asked the municipal mayors of Guinobatan and Sto. Domingo sent home some 8,445 people, or about 44 percent of total evacuees, who were not living inside the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone of the restive Mount Mayon.


Lagman said during the press briefing that he would recommend the decampment of the 1,688 families (5,473 people) in Sto. Domingo and the 377 families (2,972 people) in Guinobatan if the two local mayors failed to justify their decision to evacuate these residents living within the 7- to 8-km extended danger zone.


Lagman said during the press conference that the decision for evacuation should be based on science, citing the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) who only recommended the evacuation of the residents inside the 6-km permanent danger zone.


“There is no science behind their actions; we are having problems on how to sustain the response effort considering our small budget. So, I think we need to meet as soon as possible for them to justify their actions,” Lagman said.


In Guinobatan, residents were evacuated on June 9 the same day that alert level 3 (intensified unrest) was raised over the volcano due to the threat of lahar, or lava flow, as they were living near the two big gullies of the volcano, said Joy Maravillas, head of the town’s disaster risk reduction and management office.


In Sto. Domingo, the LGU evacuated the residents from the villages of Lidong, Fidel Surtida, Sta. Misericordia and San Fernando on June 12, after seeing the lava flow in Basud Gully of the volcano.


As of Monday, 5,751 families (19,819 people) were evacuated from the danger zone in the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo; and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco, the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) said in a report.


As of June, this year, Apsemo recorded 4,749 families, or 18,184 people, living inside the 6-km danger zone in 14 villages.


On June 19, Gov. Grecon Lagman wrote a letter to Guinobatan and Sto Domingo town mayors Paul Chino Garcia and Joseling “Jun” B. Aguas Jr., stating the PDRRMC advisory 14-2023 executing evacuation of population inside the 6-km radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) as recommended by Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).


“Our records reveal that based on your submitted Mayon Volcano population at risk for Sto. Domingo there is no population residing inside the 6-km radius PDZ. In consideration of the above and the meager resources that we have, the inconvenience to the displaced individuals and the possible secondary effects such as disease outbreaks, mental and psychological issues, may I respectfully request and urge the local government of Sto. Domingo to allow the current evacuees composed of 1,688 families or 5,473 persons to return to their residences for the time being until Phivolcs recommend that they be evacuated,” he said in his letter to Aguas.


“This will ensure that our stockpile will be able to last should we evacuate residents from the seven- and eight-kilometer radius extended danger zone, prevent donor’s fatigue and promote well-being of our evacuees,” he said.


Furthermore, please be reminded that should Phivolcs issue Mayon Volcano Alert Level 4, we will provide an advisory to evacuate the population at risk submitted by your PDRRMO based on the recommendation of Phivolcs, he said.


In displaced families in the barangays of Lidong, 60 families or 208 persons, Sta. Miserecordia, 715 families or 2,600 persons; San Fernando, 176 families or 647 persons and Fidel Surtida 154 families or 557 persons or a total of 1,105 families or 4012 persons.


In response to Gov. Lagman letter, Sto. Domingo town Mayor Joseling Aguas Jr., issued a statement stating his decision to evacuate the 7-8km extended danger zone (EDZ) vulnerable population saying the safety of the people is his primordial priority.


“Safety of our constituents is our utmost priority. When the Phivolcs raised the alert level 3, residents from 7 to 8-km EDZ in our LGU became restless and anxious for their lives. They began constructing temporary shanties in safe places where they had evacuated last 2018 Mayon eruption,” Aguas said.


“Others have already evacuated or sought refuge with their immediate family members in other safe places. These activities have always been the practice of the people wherever Mayon Volcano shows signs of abnormality,” he said.


Aguas also cited the unprecedented incident in 1897 Mayon Volcano eruption wherein more than 300 people were perished alive after the pyroclastic flow surpassed the 8-km danger zone.


“For information, the following paragraph was written in our historical background: The second most destructive eruption of Mayon Volcano on June 24-26, 1897, known as “pangiritikiti” brought destruction to the town of Sto. Domingo is the hardest hit by the ire of the volcano. It was reported that on the first day212 corpses were found buried, 14 died of burns and about 60 negritos also missing. More than 350 perished in this catastrophic event that also erased the barrios of San Antonio, Sto. Niño and San Isidro on the map,” Aguas said.


“This unfortunate event which until now is still instilled in the minds of my constituents was the main reason for my decision to order preemptive evacuation of the residents in the EDZ on June 12, 2023. As the local chief executive of this town, I have the responsibility and authority to answer their fears and guide them to safe evacuation places. After all, our goal in every disaster is zero casualty,” the mayor said.


“I also firmly believe that we can never conquer nature and nobody can foretell what will happen next despite the fact of the advanced technology and scientific instruments that our government has. As the father of this municipality, I will never compromise the safety of the people versus the lack of resources. Resources can be sourced out but we cannot bring back people’s life,” he said.


Shortly after issuing the official statement, Aguas met the village chieftains of four barangays to tackle Lagman’s directive to decamp the villagers who evacuated to temporary shanties for their safety against the imminent hazardous explosion.


On June 20, Aguas issued MDRRMC advisory No. 002 on Mayon unrest 2023. In his advisory, he said that relative to the letter received on June 19, 2023 from the governor and the PDRRMC chairman of the province of Albay, I hereby advise the following: Decampment of evacuees from Barangays Lidong, Fidel Surtida, Sta. Misericordia and San Fernando effective June 21,20203.


Barangay officials are advised to coordinate with the MDRRMC for orderly decampment. Provided however, that residents should refrain from entering the 6km PDZ as ashfall, lava flow and pyroclastic density currents may occur any moment. Furthermore, residents along Basud and Telegrapo rivers to be on alert for sudden lahar flows in case of heavy rainfall.


Should the evacuees prefer to stay at evacuation camps or areas for fear, they should inform their respective barangay officials for proper coordination. Continuous alert, monitoring and preparedness status of the MDRRMC and BDRRMCs, Aguas said.


Former governor now 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda said that sero casualty can be a very expensive objective—but it is embedded in the constitution, culture, and values that there is nothing more expensive than the loss of human life.


Salceda, a three-term provincial governor of Albay and chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said in a statement that the primary responsibility of the local government units is to protect the displaced families affected by natural disaster.


“The primary responsibility for evacuees lies with local government units (LGUs), but we really need national government support to keep people safe. The rumblings continue and the danger remains. We respectfully request the continued support of the national government for local governments with evacuees,” Salceda said in a statement.


“Zero-casualty can be a very expensive objective – but it is embedded in our constitution, our culture, and our values that there is nothing more expensive than the loss of human life,” the lawmaker said.


Salceda said that LGUs have decided that early evacuation is necessary to protect the lives of their people.


“But they need help. That is why we have repeatedly expressed our gratitude to the national government for its steadfast support of evacuation efforts. The crucial ingredient to zero-casualty is sufficient resources. And so far, the national government has been extremely supportive,” he said.


The lawmaker reiterated that following the protracted nature of Mayon evacuations, the displaced families will need not only food and economic assistance, but also health, safety, educational, and psychosocial support.


“We definitely need provisions for more social workers, more health workers, and facilities to allow continued learning in evacuation centers. Evacuation should be minimally disruptive to the economic and social life of evacuees,” he added.


President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos visited Albay on June 14, where he personally looked into the conditions of the displaced families in Guinobatan Community College in Mauraro village and personally handed over the food rations.


The President also met the national, regional and provincial disaster officials and national government agencies where he assured the provincial government and the displaced families that the food provision for three months was in place.


The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said that the oozing lava flow ejected from the crater of the restive Mayon Volcano has reached 2.5 kilometers along the Mi-isi gully.


Based on Phivolcs advisory on Wednesday said that lava tumbled down from the crater reaching as far as 2.5 kilometers and 1.8 kilometers along the Mi-isi gully in Daraga town and Bonga gully in Legazpi City, respectively.


On the 13th days of Mayon Volcano effusive eruption a “very slow effusion of lava flow to lengths of 2.5km and 1.8km along Mi-isi and Bonga Gullies, respectively, and lava collapse on both gullies within 3.3km from the crater, Phivolcs said.


Mariton Bornas, Chief of the Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division of PHIVOLCS said that if the effusive eruption of Mount Mayon is sustained for a long time, lava flow might surpass the 6km PDZ.


“If current rate is sustained for a long time, possible naman na lumabas ng PDZ ang lava flow. Pero ang mga PDCs or uson, since these mainly emanate from collapse of the summit dome, ganyan pa rin. Sa mga na-mapa ko na deposits since 2000, yung mga PDC lang from explosive eruption ang nakalagpas ng kaunti sa PDZ,” Bornas said.


From June 8, 2023 to date, the rocks and debris that collapsed have also been scattered up to a distance of 3.3 kilometers from the volcano’s crater. But the Phivolcs officials are not discounting the possibility of hazardous and explosive eruption.


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