AT LEAST P61.286 million was spent for some 47,000 people evacuated from the danger zones around Mayon Volcano in the past two weeks, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said on its latest bulletin.

Situation Report 22 as of 7 a.m. stated that the amount includes assistance from government, local government units, and non-government organizations (NGOs).

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Of the amount, P9.3075 million came from the NDCC. Another P6.456 million came from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD), P6.915 million from the Department of Health (DOH), P36.014 million from local government units, and P2.594 million from NGOs.

More than 47,000 people were evacuated from danger zones since the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 3 last December 14 and Alert Level 4 on December 20.

On Saturday, Phivolcs lowered Mayon Volcano's warning level to Alert Level 3, prompting the Albay government to send back majority of the evacuees to their homes because an eruption is less imminent.

But the NDCC said those in the six to seven kilometer danger zones still have to take temporary shelter in evacuation camps.

The NDCC also facilitated the release of 10,200 sacks worth P9.3075 million to the provincial disaster coordinating council to augment relief assistance to evacuees.

The DSWD meanwhile distributed rice, family food packs, noodles, blankets, plastic mats, canned goods, water jugs, and jackets, towels and sweaters to the evacuees.

It likewise distributed almost one million high-energy biscuits from the United Nations' World Food Programme for an estimated 10,400 children expected to last for 92 days.

The DSWD's central office had allotted P500,000 as standby funds for the evacuees during the preemptive evacuation while the DSWD's Bicol office has P802,718 in standby funds and has stockpiled relief goods.

The agency also conducted entertainment activities as part of its psycho-social intervention to the evacuees. It organized three psycho-social teams to debrief and counsel evacuees.

The DOH, for its part, distributed drugs, medicines, face masks, emergency health kits, chlorine granules, and drinking water containers, and anti-venom.

It mobilized 10 medical teams from Metro Manila hospitals like San Lazaro, Jose Fabella Memorial, Amang Rodriguez Medical Center, among others to look into the health needs of the evacuees.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also did its share by conducting a two-day medical mission last December 30 in Tabaco City while the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) in Bicol region administered community exposure activities such as health care administration of medicines, health assessment, and health teachings.

Alert status could change

Government volcanologists on Sunday said the Alert Level 3 status of Mayon Volcano could still change.

“There is still a possibility that the alert status is increased to Alert Level 4,” said Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum.

In case the Phivolcs sees a significant increase in Mayon's activity, the alert status could be switched back to Alert Level 4.

But if parameters show further decrease in activity, the alert status will be reduced to Alert Level 2, added Phivolcs.

Solidum hinted that they may lower the alert level further in the next few weeks if the volcano does not act up again.

“We have to observe the volcano for at least one more week. But still we should not be confident because an Alert Level four is still possible,” Solidum said.

Alert Level 2 indicates unrest probably of magmatic origin and could eventually lead to eruption.

Phivolcs is estimating that the present Alert Level 3 will stay for a month before lowering it even more, if the volcano doesn't show any abnormality.

“Hopefully, the decrease in Mayon's activity will continue,” Paul Alanis of Phivolcs said in a radio interview.

The Alert Level 3 status signifies that the possibility of a hazardous eruption has become lower.

According to the Sunday morning advisory of the Phivolcs, a pale crater glow was observed on Saturday night.

As of 7 a.m. Sunday, nine volcanic earthquakes were detected while sulfur dioxide emission rate was at an average of 2,094 tonnes per day.

The Alert Level 3 status also includes the maintenance of a six kilometer radius permanent danger zone around the volcano and a seven kilometer extended danger zone on the southeast flank of the volcano.

Residents living in those areas are still in evacuation centers.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council meanwhile reported that up to 7,000 families living in the eight kilometer danger zones have gone back to their homes.

Last Saturday, Phivolcs lowered the alert status hoisted over Mayon Volcano to Alert Level 3 from Alert Level 4.

Three factors were considered in Phivolc’s move -- no ash ejections have been observed since December 29; majority of the recorded earthquakes were associated with rockfalls and rolling down of fragments from lava; and sulfuric dioxide emissions has decreased from a maximum of 8993 tons per day to 2,621 tons per day.

Warning to residents

Solidum meanwhile reiterated his warning to residents and tourists not to get near the volcano’s danger zone, as "rockfalls are still being recorded."

The NDCC also proposed a "buy out" on lands classified under danger zones and relocation of families from the six-to-seven kilometer permanent danger zone.

NDCC said 2,114 families or 8,765 persons were classified as Economically Disrupted Households (EDH), which means that their livelihood is within the danger area even if they are not residing there.

Mayon Volcano, located about 330 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Manila, has erupted 48 times in recorded history. In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the town of Cagsawa. (Virgil Lopez/Angela Casauay/Sunnex)