Sep 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2636.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2636
2009-12-29 08:13
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6921
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2636/01 3630813
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 290813Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6133
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2335
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0361
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 002636

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: PHILIPPINES VOLCANO REMAINS AT HIGH ALERT; U.S. GAUGES POTENTIAL RELIEF NEEDS

REFTELS: A) Manila 2597 B) Manila 2583 C) Manila 2610

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Southern Luzon’s Mount Mayon, at Alert Level 4
since December 20, continues to emit lava and hurl ash skyward in
mile-high plumes. Local authorities have evacuated over 47,000
residents from within five miles of the summit and are struggling to
provide them with adequate clean water, sanitation and health care.
Mission Disaster Relief Officer (MDROff), U.S. Agency for
International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance
(USAID/OFDA) Regional Advisor, and U.S. military personnel are
currently on location to evaluate relief needs, interface with local
officials, and develop a U.S. Government contingency relief plan.
Based on the current situation, Post is declaring a disaster.
Septel formally requests USD 100,000 in disaster assistance funds
for victims in evacuation centers. End Summary.

—————————————–
Volcano Calmer, but Major Eruption Remains Likely
—————————————–

¶2. (SBU) Although Mount Mayon, 220 miles southeast of Manila,
continues to exhibit intense volcanic activity, Philippine Institute
of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) scientists have yet to
observe an eruption of sufficient magnitude to warrant the highest
warning level, Alert Level 5. In fact, PHILVOLCS bulletins indicate
that the number of daily volcanic earthquakes has decreased by more
than a factor of ten, and the daily volume of sulfur dioxide
emissions has more than halved since evacuations began on December
¶14. However, Ms. Maricel Capa of the PHILVOLCS Volcano Monitoring
Division told us that decreased seismic and gas activity was also
consistent with a ‘plugged crater,’ which often precedes a
particularly violent release of trapped magma. Apart from a
catastrophic explosion, Capa said rainy weather and resulting
landslides were a major safety concern, as lava flows now extend
almost four miles below the crater rim.

—————————————–
Clean Water, Sanitation Shortfalls Threaten Evacuees
—————————————–

¶3. (SBU) Mission Disaster Relief Officer (MDROff) and U.S. Agency
for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster
Assistance (USAID/OFDA) Regional Advisor inspected four (of 31
total) evacuation centers in Albay province on December 24 and
observed crowded conditions and shortages of clean water and
sanitation facilities. Most of the evacuation centers are schools,
with classrooms designed for 25 children now housing 40 or more
evacuees. One center visited by MDROff and OFDA Advisor featured
only two working latrines for over 2,000 people. At some evacuation
centers the Bureau of Fire Protection is trucking in water to
alleviate shortages, while at others evacuees are relying on local
residents for potable water.

—————————————–
Health Issues Under Control for Now
—————————————–

¶4. (SBU) MDROff and OFDA Advisor noted that although current health
issues remain limited to low-level respiratory and intestinal
conditions, officials are concerned that increasingly cool weather
and prolonged overcrowding will increase health risks. Albay
Provincial Disaster Coordinating Committee (PDCC) Executive Director
Cesar Daep confirmed that the centers are currently free of major
disease outbreaks and said that the Philippine military, the Albay
Department of Health (DoH), and private sector groups were
collaborating in daily health assessments at evacuation centers.
The DoH was setting up clinics at ‘strategic locations,’ so sick
evacuees would not need to be transferred to hospitals in case of
illness.

MANILA 00002636 002 OF 003

———————————————
Authorities Trying to Keep Education on Track
———————————————

¶5. (SBU) Anticipating an evacuation that will last at least through
January, provincial Department of Education (DoE) authorities hope
to transfer evacuees from schools to tent camps by the start of
classes on January 4. Disaster relief officials, however, fear that
such a move will spur evacuees to return to their homes in the
danger zone on Mount Mayon, and suggest holding classes in tents
instead. Regardless of which scenario prevails, officials say the
need for tents is acute. The DoE plans to resume a normal
instruction schedule by doubling shifts in unaffected schools (to
accommodate evacuee schoolchildren) and holding make-up classes on
Saturdays. The DoE will also attempt to hold classes in some
schools serving as evacuation centers, with the centers reverting to
sleeping areas at night.

————————————
Province Opens Arms to Relief Groups
————————————

¶6. (SBU) Albay provincial officials have enlisted a broad range of
public, private, national, and international organizations to
support the evacuation effort and maintain the province’s ‘zero
casualty’ policy. In addition to engaging the full spectrum of
Philippine government departments and agencies, provincial officials
have elicited assistance from various United Nations (e.g. World
Food Program, UN Development Program, Food and Agricultural
Organization, UN International Children’s Emergency Fund), private
sector (e.g. Pfizer Inc.), and international and non-governmental
organizations (IOs and NGOs, e.g. International Organization for
Migration, Save the Children). On December 22, Albay Governor Jose
Sarte ‘Joey’ Salceda declared the evacuation centers ‘open cities’
for IOs and NGOs, allowing them to enter without prior notice or
clearance, so as to facilitate the provision of the services and
goods they provide to the evacuees. Despite the broad range of
donors, PDCC chairman Cesar Daep told us on December 28 that the
province’s calamity fund was nearly depleted and that obtaining
additional funding to maintain the evacuation program is Governor
Salceda’s top priority.

——————————————— –
Support for American Citizens and Local Staff
——————————————— –

¶7. (SBU) Consular section staff has determined that there are no
U.S. citizens in the extended danger zone, and continue to monitor
the situation by contacting local authorities and wardens in the
affected area on a daily basis. The Consular section has prepared
and pre-cleared a warden message to be disseminated in the event of
a major eruption, and has readied a ‘fly-away team’ that will be
dispatched to assist Amcits in the affected area in the event of an
eruption. The Management section has prepared a contingency plan in
the event an eruption generates an ash cloud over Manila, with
provisions to provide emergency medical, communications, and
transportation services and information to the Mission community.
The Regional Security Office has issued an additional travel notice
on December 29 advising American and locally employed staff that
travel to the affected area requires permission of the Regional
Security Officer.

——————————————— –
U.S. Assesses Needs, Prepares Contingency Plan
——————————————— –

¶8. (SBU) In conjunction with USAID/Philippines and OFDA, the U.S.
Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P) are

MANILA 00002636 003 OF 003

conducting a December 29-30 field visit to the affected area to
evaluate relief needs, survey infrastructure and potential points of
debarkation, and interface with Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP)units already deployed in the region. In the event of a
catastrophic eruption, JSOTF-P is prepared to rapidly deploy a small
team of medical specialists and chaplains to augment AFP efforts.
Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines is closely
monitoring the situation, liaising with AFP colleagues on-site, and
providing periodic reports to U.S. Pacific Command.

¶9. (SBU) The MDROff and USAID/OFDA Advisor are currently in Albay
province monitoring the situation and working with Philippine
government officials, NGOs, IOs, UN organizations and donor
countries to accurately assess needs and coordinate potential relief
efforts to avoid duplication in the event a disaster does occur.
USAID/OFDA is also providing technical assistance to PHILVOLCS and
ensuring that the volcano-monitoring equipment USAID/OFDA provided
the Institute is adequately performing its early-warning function.
Based on first-hand assessments by the OFDA Advisor and the MDROff,
and the anticipated prolonged stay of community members in
evacuation centers, Post is declaring a disaster via septel and
requesting USD 100,000 in disaster funds.

¶10. (SBU) USAID oversees several ongoing health projects in the
affected region, and staff associated with these bilateral programs
is working closely with local government health officials to monitor
the wellbeing and health of the evacuees as well as to anticipate
the health services that would be needed in the event of a
catastrophic eruption. USAID is prepared to mobilize additional
resources as necessary to ensure that health standards continue to
be met within the evacuation centers and in surrounding affected
communities.

Kenney

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.