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Rough Cuts | ‘Potentially active’ this Mt. Apo

It was indeed a good move on the part of comebacking councilor Nilo Abellera to invite an official of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) during last Tuesday’s session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

The invitee served as resource person for the councilors in their desire to know what the real score of the majestic and seemingly mysterious highest mountain in the country, Mt. Apo.

Yes, the top Mindanao attraction is not just a mountain but a volcano believed to be long dormant and past its dangerous status. Meaning, as per information passed on by words of mouth over several generations, the volcano may not anymore be packing with dangerous lava that could create havoc not only in its immediate vicinity but in areas that would be in the path of the wind that carries its deadly ash fall.

The sudden interest of the first district councilor, as well as the rest of the council members, could have been triggered by the almost unexpected eruption of the small but terrible Taal volcano nestled in an attractive and productive lake of the same name in Batangas.

With Taal volcano only a few hundred meters protruding the lake water packing a wallop, Abellera and the rest of the Davao residents could be thinking how much more destruction could a giant Mt. Apo volcano has stored in its bosom in many thousand (?) years?.

But then again, the people not just of Mindanao, the Philippines, and the rest of the world are given assurance by supposed volcanology experts that Mt. Apo is extinct. So, it could mean that a sudden eruption is very unlikely.

Nevertheless, here is what the Phivolcs expert told the councilors that if taken for its literal meaning could send chills in everyone’s spine. According to Engr. Daphnie Reyes Taronia (hope we heard her family name right), Mt. Apo is classified as a “potentially active volcano.” The phrase could easily suggest that there is the possibility of imminent danger. That is, if it is to be taken in the context of a layman’s language.

The Phivolcs executive, however, explained that in volcanologist’s parlance, a “potentially active” category volcano is one that has no recorded eruption in over the last ten thousand years. We could see the relief in the faces of those who were inside the session hall.

However, in the succeeding question and answer portion, the engineer could not escape saying that there is still possibility that a dormant volcano can come up to life again. She however insisted that the series of strong earthquakes that his provinces sharing boundaries with the foot of Mt. Apo was not a result of any volcanic activity. She said all those temblors were of tectonic origin.

Her agency though is not complacent, she disclosed. The agency has three seismograph machines in strategic locations on Mt. Apo as part of its study of the volcano’s condition. Within the next three months the agency is expecting to gather partial data registered in the seismograph equipment.

By then, the agency could have some basis in making conclusions as what is the actual status of the majestic volcano.

In explaining why he asked for the appearance of the Phivolcs official Abellera was candid in saying that there is need to make the city prepared for an eventuality such as the case of the Taal eruption. There have to be measures that could help mitigate the damage to life, property and the physical appearance of the city should the volcano come to life again.

Yes, we are certain that there is a city disaster prevention and management plan though not even a single page of the document was ever presented to the public who ought to know what its role in the implementation is.

We are however sure, that the plan does not include programs and projects relative to a possible Mt. Apo eruption. The disasters mostly considered in the plan as far as prevention, mitigation and response are those brought about by massive floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and monsoon rains that usually destroy coastal communities.

As to concrete measures to respond to a possible disaster brought about by a volcanic eruption, specifically that of Mt. Apo, without doubt it could nowhere be found in the plan.

So, we believe that Abellera’s move for the appearance of a Phivolcs expert is timely and could be helpful in revising the city’s disaster preparation and mitigation plan.

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