By NBF News

THOUSANDS of people in the Philippines have fled their homes after a volcanic eruption which sent a spectacular column of ash high into the sky.

Regional army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the eruption of Bulusan, a 1,559-metre (5,115-foot) volcano, turned mid-morning into night for about 20 minutes across largely farming areas around its slopes.

'There was a major ashfall. There was zero visibility,' Cabunoc said.

State volcanologist Ramil Vaquilar said that rumbling sounds accompanied the ash column that rose between two and 2.5 kilometres (1.2-1.6 miles) above the crater.

About 2,000 residents were evacuated from three farming villages in the area as the government banned people from within four kilometres of the crater, said army commander Lieutenant-Colonel Santiago Enginco.

He added that 38 high school students were treated for ashfall inhalation.

Volcanic ash can cause nose, throat, eye or skin irritation as well as contaminate tap water, while prolonged exposure can cause lung disease, according to the health ministry.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum said on national television that planes should avoid the skies over Bulusan, as ash might clog jet engines.

However the area is not widely used in the aviation industry.

Bulusan is among 23 active volcanoes in the Philippines, which is located in the so-called Ring of Fire of volcanic activity around the Pacific.

Bulusan, 360 kilometres southeast of Manila, last erupted between March and June of 2006.

The volcano also shot ash into the air in November last year, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. However volcanologists said this was not an eruption, rather heated ash deposits near the crater mouth that exploded and burst out on contact with rainwater.

Meanwhile, President Aquino has called on Filipinos to sustain the unity of 1986 EDSA People Power to combat any threats of oppression, injustice, and corruption.

At the photo exhibit 'Revolution Revisited' by Kim Komenich at the Ayala Museum, he acknowledged that the nation has yet to fulfill its 'great potential' despite the historic bloodless popular uprising that ousted the Marcos dictatorship 25 years ago.

The President, son of famous freedom heroes, said the 25th anniversary of EDSA People Power should be more than just celebration but a 'reminder of the responsibilities we must still collectively fulfill.'

'As we look back fondly on the 1986 EDSA Revolution, we must also remember to sustain that spirit of unity because our triumph back then only remains a triumph if we make certain that each and every Filipino lives free from the darkness of oppression today. And thus, as we celebrate the 25th year of EDSA, we must ask ourselves: Have we really achieved what we wanted to achieve back then? Are we any closer?' he said in his speech.

'The people know that we are gaining ground: with the lifelines we are providing for the poorest of the poor; the jobs that will be waiting for skilled graduates; the justice we are ensuring for our citizens; and above all, the transparency and accountability we are instilling in our institutions,' he added.

Also, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse M. Robredo has called on local government units (LGUs) to participate in the 25th EDSA People Power Revolution celebrations.

This year, the theme will be 'Tatak Edsa 25: Pilipino Ako. Ako ang Lakas ng Pagbabago,' and will be highlighted on the 25th, and will showcase the Edsa Power Revolution as 'the Filipino's contribution to global democracy, mobilizing the force of volunteerism towards change and transformation.'