Asia Minute: Philippines Considers Shifting Population in the Shadow of Volcano

Jan 30, 2018

Mount Mayon
Credit Dexbaldon / Wikimedia Commons

The most active volcano in the Philippines has been erupting sporadically for more than two weeks.  Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, but a great deal of uncertainty remains. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Mount Mayon is the most active of nearly two dozen volcanoes in the Philippines.

It’s a little more than 200 miles southeast of Manila, and according to historical records, it’s erupted about fifty times over the past 500 years.

The most recent round started a couple of weeks ago. Authorities have evacuated more than 80,000 people, and it’s not clear when they’ll be able to return.

In recent days, heavy rains have added mudflows as another potential danger to local residents.

Scientists are still monitoring the lava activity—warning a more vigorous eruption is still possible.

Even in quieter times, the government has declared an area of about four miles around the volcano as a “permanent danger zone.”

Credit Wikimedia Commons

That land is usually occupied by farmers, who are among those now under the evacuation orders—while the danger zone itself has been extended during the current eruption.

The country’s defense minister says the pattern of evacuation has become a recurring theme, and he wants to change that.

He’s recommending that so-called permanent danger zone should be turned into what he calls a “no man’s land” – barring anyone from living in the area.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited the area Monday—and is considering that proposal—but for now says he’s concentrating on getting emergency aid to the region.