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Philippines: 2018 Highlights of Events

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Twenty-one tropical cyclones entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility in 2018, of which 8 made landfall. Five of these were Tropical Depressions (TD). Notable was Typhoon Mangkhut (Ompong) which made landfall in September. It was the lone Category 4 typhoon that left a trail of damages, and displacement mostly in northern part of Luzon. Majority of the tropical cyclones that made landfall were characterized by heavy and prolonged rainfall, affecting 38 provinces which suffered repeated displacements topped by Eastern Visayas region (4 out of the 6 provinces). 769 Barangays / Villages experienced rain-induced flooding, while landslides were also reported.


The country, which lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, is constantly frequented by seismic and volcanic activity each year. In 2018, seismic monitoring by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recorded more than 5,800 seismic events. Around 95% of these events were Magnitude 4.0 and below, and therefore barely felt. Even with over 250 seismic events with Magnitude 4.0 and above, there was no significant damage or casualties reported throughout the country. However, the Magnitude 7.2 offshore quake that rocked Davao Oriental province on 29 December 2018 created a scare in the coastal communities in the region after PHIVOLCS issued a Tsunami Advisory, which was lifted a few hours later after only minor sea level disturbance.


More than 1,200 response and recovery activities involving 42 organizations (UN, INGOs, LNGOs, Red Cross) are part of the continuing Marawi City response. More than a year after the conflict ended in October 2017, there are still 69,000 people waiting to return to their homes. Apart from the Marawi conflict, other factors caused the displacement of more than 310,000 people in 20 provinces in Mindanao, the majority displaced by sporadic armed-conflicts and natural hazards. Maguindanao province topped the most displaced province (over 162,000 cumulative displacement) while Surigao provinces had the highest number of people displaced due to effects of natural hazards.


In January 2018, the high level of unrest prompted the PHIVOLCS to raise the Mayon volcano to alert level ‘4’, characterized by imminent hazardous eruption. This resulted in the evacuation of over 81,000 people, mostly residents within the 9 kilometer-radius danger zone from the volcano.
With still more than 65,000 people in evacuation camps at the beginning of March, the alert level was lowered from ‘4’ to ‘3’ (hazardous eruption within weeks). This gradually allowed the majority of the displaced residents to return to their homes. On 29 March, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) of Albay ordered the full decampment of all remaining evacuees following the downgrading of Mayon’s status to alert level ‘2’ (moderate level of unrest). The 6-km Permanent Danger Zone remains off limits due to the perennial hazards of rockfalls, avalanche, ash puffs and sudden steam-driven or phreatic eruptions at the summit area.

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