THE Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Mount Kanlaon is “swelling” as it urged the residents within the volcanic belt to prepare for any eventuality.
Phivolcs science research specialist chief Ma. Antonia Bornas briefed the members of the Negros Occidental Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) about the seismic activities of Mount Kanlaon during their first quarterly meeting Tuesday, March 20, held at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City.
Mount Kanlaon, which is the highest point in the Visayas at 2,465 meters (8,087 feet) above sea level, remained on Alert Level 2, or moderate level of unrest.
It straddles the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
Bornas said the active volcano is “currently experiencing swelling and inflation which manifests seismic behavior quite similar to Mayon Volcano, three months before the occurrence of its major eruption.
She said they have been monitoring the seismic activities of Kanlaon Volcano using their advanced monitoring instruments.
Further, she is advising local government units that are situated closer to Kanlaon or within the volcanic belt to ensure their early emergency readiness and response.
"We have recorded an inflation of the Kanlaon Volcano based on our global positioning system (GPS) monitoring wherein we have seen something that pushes the volcano from the bottom. This is the reason why we have not lower down Alert Level 2,” she said.
“Although the sulfur dioxide has reduced based on the readings on Monday, there is some kind of inflation that has a similarity with what we have recorded at Mayon Volcano prior to its eruption,” she added.
She said they are not really sure if there will be major or a regular eruption.
“But the nature of Kanlaon volcano which hardly degasses, we cannot be certain whether it will be a major eruption or a regular one. A close monitoring of its seismic activities are being done,” she stressed.
She said they don't have past records of its ground deformation.
“But as a precautionary measure, we need to prepare our people in Negros especially those who live closer to the volcano that there might be a possible eruption. We need to double the monitoring along with our partners in the local government,” she said.
The magmatic eruption of Mount Kanlaon happened in 1902.
Its recent eruptions last December were phreatic or steamed-driven.
If their monitoring says that there will be a magmatic eruption, there will be a definite precursory activity, Bornas said.
“For now, there are no signs that will compel us to raise the alert level but we will just double our monitoring because of the inflation and swelling of Kanlaon Volcano," she said.
The local government units should start planning or reviewing their emergency preparedness and prepositioning of resources in case it happens, the course of actions in terms of responding to emergency cases and evacuation in high hazard areas can be implemented with efficiency and precision, she added.
She also urged the residents living close to the volcano to relay their observations if there are abnormal signs, like what they see, hear, smell the foul odor of sulfur and felt something unusual in their area. She added they should inform the nearest authority so appropriate action can be taken.
She said there are families who reside near the Mount Kanlaon unlike in Mount Mayon.
The Phivolcs official warned the trekkers to observe the four-kilometer permanent danger zone, as a lot of mountain trekkers go there especially during the Holy Week.
“If there is a major eruption, those who are near can be hit by ballistic projectiles which are dangerous and can even kill people,” she said, adding that magmatic eruption is dangerous in nature.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Division (PDRRMD) have laid down their evacuation plan status of Mount Kanlaon to be elevated to Alert Level 3, Alert Level 4, and Alert Level 5.
Five of the 13 barangays in La Castellana is within the four-kilometer danger zone.
Under Alert Level 3, five of these barangays are highly susceptible to lava. Residents of these villages will be evacuated first.
The remaining barangays, which are within the seven to the 12-kilometer danger zone, will be evacuated under Alert 4.
If it’s Alert Level 5, it means that eruption is in progress.
Evacuation centers were identified outside the danger zone, which is 15 to 16 kilometer away from the area.