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Cablegate: Well-Planned Evacuation Moves Thousands From Luzon

VZCZCXRO9953
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2597/01 3520851
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 180851Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6090
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2328
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0354
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/USMISSION UN ROME IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002597

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 RP
SUBJECT: WELL-PLANNED EVACUATION MOVES THOUSANDS FROM LUZON
VOLCANO'S REACH

REFTEL: Manila 2583

1. (SBU) Summary. Authorities have evacuated over 40,000 people
living within five miles of the Mayon Volcano in southern Luzon,
including virtually all residents of the 'extended danger zone'.
The level of volcanic activity remains high, but experts do not
believe a hazardous eruption is imminent. The Mission Disaster
Relief Officer (MDROff) on-site reports that the relocation was
conducted quickly and efficiently, a testament to Albay province's
successful mainstreaming of disaster preparedness policy. Both the
U.S. Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development
have contributed to the province's highly effective disaster risk
reduction programs, which serve as a model for the nation and the
region. End Summary.

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'An Eruption Today Would Not Be a Disaster'
------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Albay Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC)
began evacuating residents from within the five mile radius
'extended danger zone' surrounding Mount Mayon the evening of
December 14, the same day the Philippine Institute of Volcanology
and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the volcano's warning intensity to
Alert Level 3. By the morning of December 18, authorities had
relocated over 40,000 persons, virtually the entire population of
the extended danger zone, to schools and other public buildings
outside the zone. Mission Disaster Relief Officer (MDROff) at the
scene reports that magma eruptions are dispersing lava in a 360
degree radius around the mountain, not just in the southeast
quadrant which is the historical pattern. Thus, Albay authorities
are evacuating more people than during previous periods of volcanic
activity. MDROff said Armed Forces of the Philippines troops and
Philippine National Police personnel are strictly enforcing the
no-entry policy around the danger zone, and assisting in forced
evacuations. One provincial official noted that 'if it happened
today,' an eruption would not be a disaster.

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Incentives to Spend Christmas in a Shelter
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3. (SBU) Contacts report that the evacuations have proceeded
smoothly, and evacuation centers are well-run and organized, with
sufficient sanitary and health facilities, and with all evacuees
registered upon arrival. Chairman of the Provincial Disaster
Coordinating Committee (PDCC) told MDROff that the province is
employing an incentive system to keep people in evacuation centers,
mainly by distributing five kilograms of rice per family per day.
Albay province Governor Salceda added that providing holiday meals,
although a strain on the evacuation budget, is likewise necessary to
prevent the evacuees from returning home to celebrate the holidays
in the danger zone.

4. (SBU) The Consular section continues to monitor the situation by
contacting wardens in the affected area. Section staff have yet to
receive any inquiries from concerned U.S. citizens. Information
collected by the Consular section to date indicates that there are
no U.S. citizens among the evacuees. There are no Peace Corps
volunteers assigned to the immediate evacuation zone and all in the
region are safe and secure.

-----------------------------------------
Scientists Say Volcano Restless but Stable
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) PHIVOLCS scientists continue to monitor the volcano, but
have not raised the Alert Level from 3 (signifying relatively high
unrest) to 4 (intense unrest, hazardous eruption imminent). They

MANILA 00002597 002 OF 002


report an increase in the number of ash explosions and volume of
sulfur dioxide emissions, but fewer volcanic tremors than prefigured
the last major Mayon eruption in 2006. Lava flows continue to
expand and have reached three kilometers below the crater lip.
PHIVOLCS Assistant Director Bartolome Bautista told ESTHOff that
while he expected the volcano to continue to disgorge lava over the
next month, he did not consider a major eruption likely.

---------------------------------------
Albay Mainstreams Disaster Preparedness
---------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Albay provincial officials have made disaster preparedness
and risk reduction a central component of their economic strategy,
with a goal of zero disaster casualties. Instead of relying on
contingency funding, nine percent of the provincial budget is
allocated to disaster risk reduction efforts. A core element of the
zero casualty goal is preemptive evacuation, which in turn depends
on both risk and resource mapping, and an effective community
warning system. The community outreach component is an innovative
public private partnership with a major telecommunications provider,
which distributed 15,000 SIM cards to local officials and citizen
volunteers, who form the core of the early-warning system.

----------------------------------------
U.S.A.I.D. Builds Disaster Preparedness
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) In response to Typhoon Durian (Reming) in 2006, the U.S.
Agency for International Development funded $1.5 million in
livelihood restoration and disaster risk reduction projects in Albay
province. In addition to prepositioning emergency equipment and
supplies in vulnerable areas, USAID has invested in disaster
preparedness at the local level. The agency has worked with
municipal and village officials to develop disaster plans, developed
low-cost warning systems in rural areas, and trained teachers and
students in disaster risk reduction. USAID also funded a $3.5
million project to construct over 900 typhoon- and
earthquake-resistant homes in previously devastated areas.


Kenney

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