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Permanent no-entry into Mayon danger zone sought

The Office of the Civil Defense is looking at several proposals to ban residential settlements within the 6-kilometer radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) of the Mayor Volcano, including pursuing a natural park development project in the area.

“OCD is pushing for so-called science-based institutions – Phivolcs, DENR, and DPWH – to look at permanent solutions, and which are feasible. We should accept by now that there should be no residents within the 6-kilometer danger zone,” OCD Administrator Usec. Ariel Nepomuceno said in a press briefing on Saturday.

“We will push the PNP and the local government units – encourage them – that if there is a legal way to force [the residents out of the PDZ], then that should be implemented,” he added.

Nepomuceno said developing the natural park project in the area is a long-term solution that would ease the burden of both the local and national governments and would better manage their respective disaster and relief funds.

“It is really exhausting – when they evacuate, we have to source food for them, classes get disrupted. Resources get drained from the barangay to the municipal to the national government level,” he said.

He said the OCD will conduct a thorough research on related legislations that may already be pending or existing policies for enforcement, such as the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas (E-NIPAS) Act or Republic Act No. 11038.

Under the law, Mount Mayon Natural Park is one of the 94 sites declared as protected areas.

Mayon Volcano, which remains under Alert Level 3, continued to emit lava, Phivolcs said yesterday.

In the past 24 hours, the state seismology office recorded two volcanic earthquakes and 280 rockfall events at the volcano, which also emitted 978 tons of sulfur dioxide in a day.

As of Friday, at least 20,000 residents have already evacuated and are staying in 27 evacuation centers across Albay province.

According to Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office head Eugene Escobar, water supply remains the primary challenge for the evacuees.

State volcanologists have warned Mayon, considered one of the most volatile of the country’s 24 active volcanoes, could continue rumbling for months.

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are common in the Philippines due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide. — Vince Lopez

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