PGTW: Magma cum laude

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 9 October 2014, Thursday

Magma cum laude

As traffic woes plague the metro, and news of overpriced government buildings and underpriced government officials’ estates fill the mass media, the brave people of Albay are facing what could be the province’s biggest catastrophe in 400 years.

Following disturbing activity observed in Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone, Albay was placed under Alert Level 2 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) last Aug. 15.

In the evening of Sep. 15, a fiery glare was seen in the crater while lava seeped down the slopes. Philvolcs immediately raised the alert to Level 3. The agency says “a vulcanian eruption” – a strong eruption – is imminent if Mayon “sustains its gas emission of 1,000 tons a day.”

Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, who is also chairman of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC), immediately ordered the local government units and barangays to prepare for “dire eventualities.”

Albay has evacuated 10,610 families or 100 percent of vulnerable households and the province is placed under a State of Continuing Disaster. The overall guiding policy in this instance is “zero casualty,” hence the evacuation of residents within six kilometers of the volcano – the “permanent danger zone” (PDZ). The “extended danger zone” (EDZ) is eight kilometers around Mayon. The zones were based on observations made of lava flow during previous eruptions.

According to Abdon Balde Jr., the Provincial Government of Albay’s consultant for cultural affairs, “Included in the danger zones are the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco, and Ligao, and the municipalities of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Santo Domingo, and Malilipot.”

Livestock was evacuated as well, because it was observed that people return to danger zones to feed and care for their animals that were left behind. The animal population, said Salceda, consists of “3,744 carabaos, 2,035 cattle, 5,576 swine, 19,304 poultry, and 4.640 dogs in the 40 barangays within the PDZ.”

These were evacuated by the Mayon Evacuation Animal Team (MEAT) to eight centers in Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, and Malinao.

Balde recounts an incident of a couple attempting to re-enter the PDZ, to “feed their pig”, they said. One of the couple’s children “confessed that their family does not own a pig.” Salceda figured that the couple wanted some privacy time, so he “sought the assistance of some motel and lodging house owners,” said Balde, “for free passes or at least discounted room rates” for couples seeking intimacy. No other public official, to my knowledge, has displayed this degree of sensitivity and understanding of human needs.

Salceda discourages “disaster tourism”. He said “The dignity of persons and the integrity of families will be undermined by…tourism on the backs of the sacrifices of our internally displaced persons who are already vulnerable, thus disadvantaged.”

The speedy and efficient response of Salceda and his team to the threat posed by Mayon is admirable and an example for LGUs and the national government to emulate.

But the Albay provincial government needs additional resources to sustain the programs they are implementing – food for humans and animals; relief goods; financial assistance; and other necessities for the evacuees.

Among the government agencies pitching in to help is the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. When the news about Mayon first broke, PCSO sent to their Albay branch in Legazpi City 10,000 Family Emergency Medicine kits and 500 survival kits even before any request for assistance was received from the province. These have already been distributed in various areas of Albay.

FEM kits contain paracetamol tablets and syrup, loperamide and mefenamic acid. The survival kits consist of a sleeping mat, mosquito net, and blanket.

PCSO is also coordinating with the National Food Authority for 5,000 sacks of rice, in response to Salceda’s request for this staple, for the consumption of the evacuees.

For updates on the ongoing situation in Albay, visit Salceda’s Facebook page: Joey Sarte Salceda. It’s the most informative social media account of any government official that I’ve seen.

* * * * *

A baker’s dozen of blues bands will be competing in the 3rd Philippine Blues Competition on Oct. 12 for the chance to go up against international blues artists in Memphis in January 2015.

According to lawyer Roy Allan Magturo, secretary of the Philippine Blues Society, thirteen bands will be facing off on Sunday at The Roadhouse Manila Bay across Mall of Asia.

In order of appearance, the bands are: Hunting Lilac, Mean Jay, Lagtikan Trio, Brewed, Spaceman, Glass Cherry Breakers, The Big Beer Dippers, Ian Lofamia Band, Jalan Jive, Stringman’s Blues Project, Mighty Gunjoes, Blue Way, and Cygnet.

The winning band will represent the Philippines in the 31st International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, from Jan. 20-24, 2015.

Last year’s entry, Brat Pack, made it to the finals, the only Asian act in the history of the IBC to do so. Visit philippinebluessociety.com for more information.

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