Philippines

Philippines: PGMA distributes relief goods in Legaspi City evacuation center

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President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today oversaw the distribution of foodstuffs and other basic necessities in various evacuation centers in Legaspi City.

Later, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, chairman of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, told the President that the number of solders and policemen patrolling the area around Mayon Volcano have been doubled to ensure that everybody is moved to safer grounds and nobody is allowed to go within the danger zone.

For their part, officials of Philvolcs told the President the volcano could erupt any time.

In a media briefing in Malacanang earlier, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita disclosed that 9,880 families had been moved to temporary shelters after the volcano showed signs of imminent eruption.

The families, composed of 47,137 individuals, are now housed in 26 school and other government buildings in the cities of Legaspi and Tabaco and in the towns of Maliliput, Camalig, and Guinobatan.

The President had flown in from Hong Kong, where she spent threee days for a much needed rest with her family.

It has always been the President's practice, Ermita said, to go directly to disaster and calamity areas from a trip abroad.

"She is one President I know, who after landing goes to the hangar of the airport and fly to any place in the Philippines, where her presence is needed" Ermita said.

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, Ermita said, PHIVOLCS had hoisted Alert Level 4, which means the volcano could erupt within days.

According to Ermita, school authorities have been advised to devise ways to enable students in evacuation centers to hold regular classes as soon as possible.

So far, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) has released 10,200 sacks of rice worth P9.37 million, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and RDCC have given away three truckloads of relief goods worth P2.1 million.

There is also a P500,000 standby fund for the purchase of additional relief goods if needed.

Also, the UNICEF donated 20 trailers of water jugs for the affected residents around the volcano.

The Executive secretary said the NDCC, RDCC, and other local government officials, along with private organizations, have made the necessary preparations to achieve zero-casualty, in pursuant to a policy formulated at President Arroyo's insistence.

"Before leaving for Hong Kong a few days ago, the President met with disaster control officials and ordered them to strictly implement the Extended Danger Zone (EDZ).

The EDZ consists of eight kilometers on the southern part and seven kilometers on northern part of the volcano's summit. Nobody is allowed to go within that radius.

The President, according to Director Ed de Leon of the Philippine Information Agency in Bicol, visited the Philippine Navy shipyard at Rawis district to inspect the stockpile of relief supplies intended for dislocated residents.

Accompanying the President were DTI Secretary Peter Favila and Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral.