Despite the lowering of Taal Volcano’s alert level from 4 to 3, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on concerned local chief executives (LCEs) in Batangas and Cavite and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other public safety units not to drop their guard and continue to take necessary precautionary measures should the volcano erupt again.
*“Ayon na rin sa PHIVOLCS, kahit na ibinaba na ang alert level, hindi pa rin tayo dapat maging kampante. The crisis is not over. It’s over when there is no longer any alert level,” *said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
*“Maging handa at listo pa rin tayo sa ano mang puwedeng mangyari para masiguro ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan,” *he added.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) lowered yesterday the alert level because of less frequent volcanic earthquake activity, decelerated ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Taal Volcano Island (TVI) edifices and weak steam/gas emissions at the Main Crater.
PHIVOLCS said that while Alert Level 3 means that there is a decreased tendency towards a hazardous explosive eruption, it should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of a hazardous eruption has disappeared.
In an advisory to affected LGUs, Año said concerned LCEs with communities residing near Taal Lake, west of Taal Volcano Island and within the seven (7) kilometer radius from the Main Crater, (7-km Danger Zone), are still on lockdown as per Bulletin No. 2 of the Batangas Provincial Government.
The DILG Secretary also said that residents outside of the 7-km danger zone may return to their respective residences and places of work subject to clearance from their respective Local Government Units.
“Based on your sound discretion, you may advise residents, communities, and owners of business establishments, particularly those outside the 7-km Danger Zone, that they have the option to return, but must be prepared for a quick and organized evacuation at such time that the alert level will again be raised,” he said to the various LGUs.
He addressed his advisory to the mayors of Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresa, Taal, Talisay, and Tanauan City.
On the other hand, the DILG Secretary said entry into Taal Volcano Island’s Permanent Danger Zone is strictly prohibited as advised by PHIVOLCS and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
“The PNP is directed to ensure that no one returns to the Volcano Island now and in the future as this has been declared a no-man’s land no less by the President himself,” he said.
Año also urged concerned local execs to assess the areas outside of the 7-km Danger Zone for damages, road accessibility, and other secondary hazards.
*“Habang tila nananahimik ang Taal Volcano, gamitin natin ang pagkakataong ito para mas lalo pang pagbutihin ang ating paghahanda at siguruhing kompleto at sapat ang ating mga resources para na rin sa kapakanan ng mga apektadong residente,” *he said.
He also advised the Provincial Governors of Batangas and Cavite to take proactive measures in ensuring that all LCEs within their respective jurisdictions are taking the necessary precautionary measures relative to the Taal Volcano eruption. “All mayors and punong barangays in the two provinces must likewise take guidance from their provincial government to ensure that their actions are unified and consistent,” he said.
Based on reports from the NDRRMC, a total of 102,443 families were affected by the Taal eruption in the provinces of Batangas, Quezon, Laguna and Cavite and a total of P3.352-billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture was incurred in Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite.
“All PNP and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) units deployed to Batangas are to remain in place until further orders from the NDRRMC and PHIVOLCS. They shall continue to assist LGUs implement the lockdown in the 7-km danger zone, provide security in evacuation centers, help in the road clearing and in the delivery of relief goods, among others. They are to remain under full alert,” he said.
As of January 27, 2020, the PNP has deployed 2,538 search and rescue personnel from the national and regional PNP headquarters and placed 9,560 SAR personnel on standby. It has also deployed 1,973 PNP personnel to evacuation areas and 178 personnel to areas vacated by affected residents, and rescued 132,514 civilians.
On the other hand, the Bureau of Fire Protection has deployed 211 firetrucks, six SRU vehicles, 18 ambulances and 1,378 personnel in the affected areas to conduct water rationing (as water demands for sanitation in evacuation centers); flushing for clearing operations of evacuation centers and other establishments; road clearing operations; relief distribution and repacking of relief goods; safety inspection, fire and earthquake drill and briefing to evacuees at different evacuation centers; and emergency medical assistance in coordination with DOH.