Comelec suspends voter registration in Taal-hit areas

VOTER registration for the May 2020 national and local elections has been suspended in areas devastated by the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

"Areas covered under the 14-kilometer danger zone, in those areas, registration is suspended," said Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said in a press conference on Friday, January 17.

"Outside of that danger zone, you also have areas affected not by the volcano erupting but by the resulting ash fall and earthquakes that have happened on the occasion of the eruption. So now, we also suspended the registration there," he added.

Areas where there will be no resumption of voter registration yet are the municipalities in Batangas that are within the 14-kilometer danger zone, namely Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Laurel, Lemery, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, and Talisay.

In addition, the localities outside the danger zone that are also not having voter registration yet are Balayan, Calaca, Calatagan, Cuenca, Lian, Lipa, Mabini, San Luis, and Tuy in Batangas; as well as Tagaytay, Alfonso, Amadeo, Indang, and Silang in Cavite.

Batangas and Cavite have already declared a state of calamity due to the massive damage caused by the volcanic eruption.

Similarly, Jimenez said there will also be no resumption of voter registration yet in Makilala, North Cotabato due to the devastation caused by the earthquake in late 2019.

"Facilities have been damaged or wrecked because of the earthquake so we cannot reasonably provide registration services at this time," said Jimenez.

To recall, the province of Cotabato suffered from three succeeding strong earthquakes - magnitude 6.3 on October 16, magnitude 6.6 on October 29, and magnitude 6.5 on October 31, 2019.

Jimenez said the resumption of voter registration in the said areas depends on their ability to recover and return to normalcy.

"The resumption will be contingent on the ability of those places to recover, to return to normalcy," he explained.

"We expect in some places that recovery will proceed faster than in others. So resumption will come sooner rather than in others," added Jimenez.

Under Comelec Resolution No. 10635, the period to register as voters is set to resume nationwide on January 20 and shall run until September 30, 2021.

The resolution, though, declared that all 23 municipalities in Palawan, except Puerto Princesa City, will not yet have voter registration in order to give way to the May 11 plebiscite to ratify the division of Palawan into three provinces. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)