Sep 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2610.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2610
2009-12-22 08:55
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO2514
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2610/01 3560855
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220855Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6102
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2330
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0356
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/USMISSION UN ROME IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002610

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

BANGKOK FOR USAID /OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR A. DWYER
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA R. THAYER
USAID W/ FOR ANE/AA AND DCHA/FPP
GENEVA FOR N. KYLOH
USUN FOR OFDA REP
BRUSSELS FOR P. BROWN
ROME FOR USAID/OHA H. SPANOS
SECDEF FOR SOLIC
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR J3/J4/J5
PACOM FOR J3/J4/J5
NSC FOR P. MARCHAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PREL KPAO SENV EAGR CASC RP
SUBJECT: FEARS RISE THAT PHILIPPINES’ MOST ACTIVE VOLCANO SET TO ERUPT

REFTELS: A) Manila 2597 B) Manila 2583

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Philippine volcanologists warned on December 20
that a hazardous eruption was imminent, after observing Mount Mayon
hurl increasing amounts of ash and lava skyward. Provincial
authorities have evacuated nearly all of the 46,000 residents from
within five miles of the summit, and stand ready to evacuate an
additional 80,000 in the event of a volcanic explosion and/or
continuing rains. Officials expressed concern that they will be
unable to fund a prolonged evacuation of six weeks or more, and have
requested funds, supplies and personnel from Philippine government
agencies. A multitude of Mission and U.S. Government agencies,
including the U.S. military, the U.S. Agency for International
Development, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Peace
Corps have previously contributed to disaster relief and
preparedness efforts in the area, and stand ready to do so again if
required. End Summary.

—————————————–
Odds of Hazardous Eruption Now Rated High
—————————————–

¶2. (SBU) Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology
(PHIVOLCS) scientists based their December 20 decision to raise the
Mayon volcano’s Alert Level to 4 (of 5 levels) on the large
increases in seismic activity and gas emissions, as well as on
observations of lava fountains and ash eruptions. Since the initial
evacuations began on December 14, the daily number of volcanic
earthquakes increased from 83 to almost 2,000, and the volume of
sulfur dioxide gas emissions surged from 535 to over 6,500 tons per
day, according to PHIVOLCS bulletins. On December 21, PHILVOCS
researchers reported lava fountains rising 200 meters above the
crater, and noted that the lava front now reached three miles below
the summit.

¶3. (SBU) Mission disaster Relief Officer (MDROff) reports that the
evacuation centers are currently in good condition, and authorities
are meeting the 46,000 evacuees’ basic needs for clean water, food,
and medical care. The Ambassador spoke with the chairman of the
Philippine National Red Cross on December 22, who said they felt
well-prepared to assist with potential injuries following an
eruption, as they had deployed a field hospital and extra ambulances
to the area.

——————————————
‘It Takes a Village’ to Run an Evacuation Center
——————————————

¶4. (SBU) Albay provincial Governor Jose Sarte ‘Joey’ Salceda told us
that he has instituted an array of costly incentives and pledges to
meet his ‘primary challenge’ of preventing evacuees from returning
to their homes in the volcano danger zone. These include a daily
ration of five kilograms of rice per family per day, holiday meals,
Christmas gifts for children, a 3,000 peso stipend to be paid to
farmers after the crisis is over, and feed for evacuees’ farm
animals. He also cited the need for social and psychological and
counseling (‘our greatest need’), as well as for preventive medical
care. Salceda stressed that only an all-around supportive
environment, in his words ‘a village’, could prevent a mass exodus
from the evacuation centers. He estimated the cost of a six-week
evacuation to be 67 million pesos (USD 1.5 million), well beyond the
province’s calamity fund. The Albay Provincial Disaster
Coordinating Council (PDCC) has requested funds, supplies, and
personnel from the National Disaster Coordinating Council, the
Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of
Health to meet these needs.

—————————————
Heavy Rains, Major Explosion Officials’ Worst Fears

MANILA 00002610 002 OF 003

—————————————

¶5. (SBU) Both Governor Salceda and PHIVOLCS Assistant Director
Bartolome Bautista believe heavy rains pose the greatest threat of a
major disaster. (Note: Although Mount Mayon’s October 2006
eruption caused no loss of life, Typhoon Durian (Reming) the
following month triggered landslides of volcanic debris that killed
an estimated 1,000. End Note.) The Governor told us that he will
begin to evacuate the more densely populated areas outside the five
mile danger zone if the currently intermittent rains strengthen, or
if a volcanic explosion takes place. Bautista lamented that the
media and general public fail to recognize the technical distinction
between a Mount Pinatubo-style volcanic explosion (which PHIVOLCS
considers unlikely) and an eruption, which by definition consists of
ash plumes and lava flows, the type of behavior predicted to
intensify on Mount Mayon. Governor Salceda noted that unlike the
farmers that constitute the current evacuees, the more urban
residents of an extended eight mile danger zone are more fearful of
an eruption, and many are requesting to be evacuated.

———————————–
Volcanic Pyrotechnics Draw Tourists
———————————–

¶6. (SBU) Although Governor Salceda has publicly stated that
promoting disaster tourism is not official provincial policy, some
officials are taking the time to encourage the domestic and
international tourists that continue to flock to the area. The
Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office has set up
strategic viewing areas outside the danger zone, and the PDCC
Chairman Cedric Daep told local media that ‘only a portion’ of the
regional capital Legazpi city was within range of a volcanic
eruption. Mount Mayon’s perfect cone shape is a consistent tourist
draw in the best of times, but according to local contacts, the
added attraction of volcanic pyrotechnics has greatly increased
tourist numbers, generating a bonanza for the local tourism
industry.

——————————————— –
Looking Out for American Citizens and Veterans
——————————————— –

¶7. (SBU) All American citizens who live in the danger zone and are
registered with the Consular section are accounted for. Consular
staff continues to monitor the situation by contacting wardens in
the affected area. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Outpatient Clinic at post has contacted all veterans residing in
Albay province who receive medications via the clinic to confirm any
changes in whereabouts and ensure continued delivery. The VA
benefits office has screened all outgoing Filipino Veterans Equity
Compensation program checks, as well as all monthly disability
compensation and pension benefit checks to ensure accurate delivery
to Albay province addresses.

¶8. (SBU) Post held an Emergency Action Committee (EAC) meeting on
December 22 to prepare for a possible large scale eruption. The EAC
reviewed the status of American citizens and veterans, and discussed
USG relief options in the event of a large-scale disaster. The
Management section will send a notice advising American and locally
employed staff that travel to the affected area requires permission
of the Regional Security Officer. The Consular section is sending a
warden message advising of the upgrade to Alert level 4 and the
resulting restrictions on travel of embassy personnel. An
additional warden message has been prepared and will be issued in
the event of an eruption.

—————————————-
Long Record of U.S Disaster Preparedness and Relief

MANILA 00002610 003 OF 003

—————————————-

¶9. (SBU) The United States has a long history of military and
civilian disaster preparedness and relief efforts in the area.
During the bilateral military and training exercise known as
Balikatan 2009, U.S. and Philippine armed forces improved roads,
constructed schools, and provided medical care to more than 21,000
local citizens. Similarly, U.S. Navy personnel provided free
medical care and reconstructed damaged public buildings after Mount
Mayon’s 2006 eruption and after typhoon Durian (Reming) hit that
same year. U.S. Peace Corps (PC) volunteers also pitched in after
Typhoon Durian, distributing relief supplies, rebuilding homes,
schools, and fishing boats, and assessing damage to facilitate
relief aid. In addition to providing large amounts of relief
supplies, the U.S. Agency for International Development/Philippines
(USAID) has contributed $5.0 million to restore livelihoods and
construct over 900 typhoon- and earthquake-resistant homes in
previously devastated areas. Both the Peace Corps and USAID have
likewise invested heavily in disaster preparedness in this
calamity-prone region. PC volunteers have provided technical
assistance in disaster shelter construction and management, while
USAID has sponsored disaster risk reduction training for teachers
and children, worked with local government officials to develop
disaster plans and low-cost warning systems, and pre-positioned
emergency equipment and supplies in rural areas.

—————————————-
Proactive USG Agencies Prepare to Assist
—————————————-

¶10. (SBU) The Consular Section has organized a ‘fly-away team’ that
will be dispatched to assist Amcits in the affected area in the
event of an eruption that makes the city of Legazpi uninhabitable.
The team has prepared a rendezvous site outside the danger zone
where they will provide Amcits in need with emergency loans and
other assistance. The U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force –
Philippines is prepared to send a medical team to Albay province on
short notice, and is in close contact with U.S. Pacific Command
regarding possible future humanitarian assistance.
USAID/Philippines is in constant contact with local government
authorities, United Nations agencies on site, and the various
Non-Governmental Organizations that operate in the area, including
those who have implemented previous USAID disaster-relief programs.
A Regional Advisor from USAID’s Bangkok Office of U.S. Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is due to arrive in the Philippines on
December 22. He will assist the Country Team in drafting a
contingency plan based on a worst case scenario. Currently, USAID
health and environment programs in the region and its personnel are
gearing up to provide immediate assistance as necessary, including
support to evacuees in evacuation centers. USAID is also working
closely with the U.S. military to ensure strong coordination and
synergy is in place.

Kenney

   

 

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