Bicol, Sorsogon brace for Bulusan 'worst-case scenario'

By Priam Nepomuceno

June 7, 2022, 1:18 pm

<p><em>(File photo courtesy of Philippine Red Cross)</em></p>

(File photo courtesy of Philippine Red Cross)

MANILA – The provincial government of Sorsogon and disaster response agencies in the Bicol region are now preparing for a "worst-case scenario" amid the unrest of Mount Bulusan.

"The Region 5 Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and the provincial government of Sorsogon are planning for a worst-case scenario -- which is a violent eruption of Mount Bulusan. If that happens, the danger zone will be expanded to six kilometers and based on the assessment of the provincial government of Sorsogon, around 95,000 individuals will be affected," National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Ricardo Jalad told President Rodrigo Duterte during his Talk to the People briefing Monday night.

Hazards that will come with an eruption include pyroclastic and lava flows, ashfall, lahar, and lahar mudflow.

"Banggitin ko rin pala na doon sa contingency plan ng probinsya ng Sorsogon ay kung sakaling mangyari ang worst-case scenario ay i-evacuate nila ang buong munisipyo ng Irosin dahil malaki sa munisipyo ng Irosin ay nandoon mismo sa caldera ng Mount Bulusan. And ang mandatory or force evacuation ay mangyayari kapag itinaas na ang alert level ng Mount Bulusan to 3 or 4 (I will also mention the contingency plan of the provincial government of Sorsogon in case of a worst-case scenario, is that they will evacuate the municipality of Irosin because a large part of the town is located near the caldera of Mount Bulusan)," Jalad said.

Jalad, who is also the Office of Civil Defense administrator, said the Bicol RDRRMC has already been placed on blue alert.

He said communications lines in Bulusan-affected local government units are being maintained.

"And naabisuhan din ang mga iba’t ibang regional government agencies on the availability and prepositioning of resources and assets na magsagawa ng continuous monitoring and assessment. At nag-implement din ng 'no-entry' papunta doon o papasok sa four-kilometer permanent danger zone ng Mount Bulusan Volcano (And we also advised other regional agencies on the availability and prepositioning of resources and assets that are conducting continuous monitoring and assessment. And they are now implementing 'no-entry' on those planning to enter the four-kilometer danger zone)," Jalad said.

He also added that Sorsogon has a total of 446 evacuation centers, including public schools, and these are all located outside the nine-kilometer danger zone.

These evacuation centers will be used if forced or mandatory evacuations are implemented.

Jalad said the evacuation centers will not be enough and under the contingency plan of RDRRMC Region 5, they will be asking for assistance from the nearby provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur to accommodate evacuees.

"All in all in Bicol Region, may total na 2,425 evacuation centers sa buong region ang available. And kung papayag ‘yung ating mga kababayan na talagang ilipat sila to as far as Masbate, Catanduanes and Camarines Norte ay magiging sapat ‘yung number of evacuation centers na ito (All in all in the Bicol Region, we have a total of 2,435 evacuation centers available in the entire region and if our countrymen will permit it to transfer them as far as Masbate, Catanduanes, and Camarines Norte, the evacuation centers will be adequate)," he added.

Jalad said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the NDRRMC Operations Center are constantly monitoring the situation in Mount Bulusan even as he urged residents residing near the volcano to comply with the advisories issued by their local government units and other government agencies.

He said 2,784 families or around 13,920 persons from Irosin and Juban towns were affected by the ashfall emitted by Mount Bulusan phreatic eruption last June 5.

A total of 216 individuals or 53 families were evacuated from Barangay Puting Sapa, Juban. Damage to agriculture was placed at 3,698 hectares of crops and estimated to be worth PHP20.2 million.

Jalad said Mount Bulusan's phreatic explosion does not affect transportation, communications, power, and water supply. (PNA)