PNP to help clean up Batangas towns, cities

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Archie Francisco Gamboa said the police will assist in the massive clean-up operations in Batangas as some of the affected populace return home.

As of Monday, January 27, a total of 54,351 individuals have gone home based on a report by the Batangas provincial police office.

“The Philippine National Police joins the people of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) particularly those from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite in their joyous homecoming after being momentarily displaced for several days by an act of nature,” he said.

“Even as some areas within the 7-kilometer danger zone around Taal Volcano remain under lockdown, a sizable contingent of PNP troops remain on the ground to assist local governments in facilitating the orderly return of residents into evacuated communities. The PNP will make available its personnel and resources for the massive clean-up effort that will welcome residents as they return to their homes to rebuild their lives,” he added.

The Batangas provincial police office said 2,764 individuals in Lipa City, 3,310 in Tanauan City, 1,820 in Alitagtag, 3,600 in Balete, 6,203 in Cuenca, 6,806 in Lemery, 4,083 in Malvar, 10,000 in Talisay, 200 in San Nicolas, 240 in Sta. Teresita, 10,670 in Taal and 4,655 in Mataas na Kahoy have returned home.

The report said 45 evacuation centers were vacated by the affected families after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) lowered the alert status to Alert Level 3.

Gamboa commended the affected residents for the cooperation, “patience and civic spirit” that allowed the PNP to hurdle the challenges brought by the calamity with zero casualty.

Gamboa vowed to remain by the side of the affected families on their road to complete recovery.

He said he has also instructed the PNP Housing Board to facilitate the relocation of PNP personnel residing within the Tall Volcano danger zone to safer PNP off-base housing projects within the region.

“Because several of our own police personnel were themselves victims of this tragedy, the PNP morale and welfare policy ensures that appropriate assistance is extended to them,” he said.

In a situational report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said as of Monday, January 27, a total of 394,094 persons or 103,443 families have been affected by the Taal Volcano eruption on January 12.

Phivolcs placed the Taal Volcano on Alert Level 4, which means imminent hazardous eruption, for two weeks, prompting the pre-emptive forced evacuation of residents within the 14-kilometer radius of the volcano as well as those in neighboring towns affected by the ash fall.

The towns/cities of Agoncillo, Laurel, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay, Tanauan City and the Taal Island were placed on lockdown to prevent the residents from returning home.

The NDRRMC said 387 people were affected in Agoncillo, 6,166 in Alitagtag, 263 in Balete, 2,773 families on Laurel, 2,104 in Cuenca, 1,585 in Lemery, 30,999 in Lipa City, 14,840 in Malvar, 4,062 in Mataas na Kahoy, 95 in San Nicolas, 1,019 in Santa Teresita, 1,001 in Taal and 1,455 families in Talisay.

On Sunday, January 26, Phivolcs lowered the alert status to Alert Level 3, thus, giving some evacuees the option of returning home provided they would immediately flee when the volcano acts up again.

Residents of Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay and Tanauan City may now return home while residents of Agoncillo and Laurel, which are still on complete lockdown, are still prohibited from going home.

Aside from assisting the returnees, Gamboa said the police are also conducting traffic management operations and patrolling for the maintenance of peace and order in their areas of responsibility.

PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac said the deployment of 13,000 policemen in the areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano, particularly in the Calabarzon, will remain.

“Hindi pa tayo magbabawas ng tauhan doon (Batangas) pero patuloy ang rotational shifting nila,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)