[PHOTO AT LEFT -A Philippine Air Force helicopter hovers near Mount Bulusan on Thursday. PHOTO BY RHAYDZ B. BARCIA]

SORSOGON CITY, NOVEMBER 12, 2010 (MANILA TIMES) By Rhaydz Barcia Correspondent - Brace yourselves as two of the most active volcanoes in the Bicol Region may explode simultaneously, the director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned on Thursday. While Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon province has erupted thrice since November 6, Mount Mayon in neighboring Albay province has been showing signs of unrest, with its crater glowing, Renato Solidum told The Manila Times.

Low-frequency earthquakes caused by Mayon, Solidum said, was another indicator of the volcano’s “progressive unrest.”

When asked by The Times if Mount Bulusan and Mount Mayon will explode simultaneously, the Phivolcs director said that the possibility is not remote as the two volcanoes are restive.

“It is not impossible and not remote to have simultaneous explosions from active volcanoes. In 2006, Mayon Volcano and Mount Bulusan erupted at the same time, so it might happen again now,” Solidum added.

From Manila, he flew to Legazpi City, Albay’s capital, on Thursday morning and proceeded to the headquarters of the Tactical Operations Group 5 of the Philippine Air Force.

Waiting for him there were Bernardo Alejandro, the Bicol director of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), and Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist in the region, for all three of them to conduct an aerial survey of Mount Bulusan. Joining them was this writer, who had been invited by Phivolcs.

As the Air Force helicopter carrying the four passengers and under the command of senior pilot Capt. Anthony Guillermo approached Bulusan, sulfur dioxide rocketed into the air.

Solidum also warned provincial officials and municipal mayors that a possibly hazardous explosion of the volcano might take place and advised them to strictly ban human activities within the 4-kilometer permanent danger zone (PDZ).

Although there has been no magma build-up detected beneath Mount Bulusan, he said that an active volcano like it still will most likely erupt.

“Since 1682, when the worst case explosion of Mount Bulusan took place or nearly 400 years ago, all (its other) eruptions were steam-driven, Solidum added.

He urged the officials and the mayors to monitor the volcano round the clock.

Director Bernardo Alejandro of the OCD-Bicol, who earlier expressed disgust with the ill-preparedness of local governments of Sorsogon during a meeting held at Camp Ola in Legazpi City, told the local governments to come up with accurate data, which should be the basis for their responses to eventual emergencies.

“Update immediately your contingency plans. We need that for planning purposes and strictly enforce the no-human-activity policy within the 4-kilometer PDZ to attain the zero-casualty goal of the government. Don’t wait for December to come up with accurate data,” Alejandro said.

The local governments earlier said that they would be able to draw up contingency plans by next month. Bulusan, a stratovolcano formed inside a caldera and 1,559 meters above sea level, has erupted 17 times since 1852.

Before this month’s explosions, it had erupted between March 2006 and October 2007. Since 1918, there have been no magmatic eruptions.

Mount Bulusan’s most destructive eruption happened 40,000 years ago.

During the past 24 hours, seismic instruments detected a total of 17 volcanic earthquakes. As of Wednesday, emission of sulfur dioxide averaged 135 tons a day.

Alert Level 1 remains hoisted over Bulusan Volcano.

Solidum also warned villagers living near valleys and along streams near the volcano against sudden sediment-laden stream flows especially during heavy rainfall.

The villagers were also advised to take precautions against ash falls.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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