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PHIVOLCS: Residents on expanding thermal steam ground in Ticala must relocate

DUMAGUETE CITY, Sept. 29 – A few families living on the edge of naturally expanding thermal steam grounds in Ticala, Valencia town in Negros Oriental may have to seriously think about relocating soon or face the dangers of their houses collapsing due to weakening soil, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Benjamin Tanatan, science research analyst of the PHIVOLCS based in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, disclosed Wednesday that a final report on the six-day survey and inquiry into the expanding thermal vents in Sitio Ticala, Barangay Caidiocan, was already submitted to their central office in Manila.

The report has concluded that, indeed, the increasing thermal steam vents along the lower Ticala Creek are migrating upstream and is a natural occurrence in areas where volcanoes are present.

He said that sulphur dioxide levels in the area are constantly rising.

Tanatan said Mt. Talinis and Cuernos de Negros are inactive volcanoes with thermal deposits that are constantly seeking exhaust vents and usually occur on weak and unstable ground, such as that at Ticala Creek.

The four-member PHIVOLCS team conducted a field investigation in Ticala last August 18-23 upon the request of Negros Oriental’s 3rd district Rep. Pryde Henry Teves, who had earlier promised to look into the reported thermal activity that may be posing a threat to residents living along the Ticala Creek.

Teves had said earlier the investigation would determine whether geothermal giant, Energy Development Corporation, was responsible for the growing steam vents as claimed by some residents in the area.

This is the second time for the PHIVOLCS to survey the area. The first was in 2007 with a final report also showing natural expanding thermal ground in Ticala.

Alfredo Dales and at least seven other families in the area have been pushing for remuneration from EDC for their land, houses and crops that have been damaged by the increased steam manifestations in the past few months.

While some families have already relocated to the EDC-GK low-cost housing site in Malaunay, Valencia, Dales and a few others opted to stay behind, insisting that the geothermal firm is responsible for the increasing steam vents due to a well head that had been sealed several years back.

EDC, however, has repeatedly announced that they are only willing to help relocate Dales and the others and provide them with some construction materials.

Tanatan warned of the dangers of living by the Ticala River as there is no way of telling the magnitude and the time it takes for the steam vents to expand aside from health risks, such as contracting respiratory illnesses, due to prolonged exposure to steam.

The PHIVOLCS team held a barangay assembly last month during their visit there to explain to residents about naturally occurring thermal expansion.

The team was composed of Tanatan, Engr. Julio Sabit, science research supervisor of the PHIVOLCS’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division, Dr. Hannah Mirabueno, agency geologist, and Joel Arellano, science aid.

Tanatan said their investigation shows that hydrothermal explosions might occur in the future at Ticala with the apparent fast expansion of thermal activities, such as newly opened hot grounds and steam vents.

Relocation of the residents in the area must be undertaken at the soonest possible time, he said.

Caidiocan and two other villages in Valencia are host communities to the Palinpinon I and II geothermal power plants operated by EDC and Green Core Geothermal, Inc.(PNA) LAP/JFP

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