Residents of 12 Batangas towns told: Go home but be ready to flee

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

WITH the lowering of the alert level over Taal Volcano, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said residents of 12 towns now have the option of going home.

But he warned those returning home that they should be prepared to flee should the volcano erupt again.

Mandanas said the following areas are no longer on lockdown effective Sunday, January 26: Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay and Tanauan City.

Residents of Agoncillo and Laurel, which are still on complete lockdown, are still prohibited from going home.

“Labing-apat na araw mula nang ito ay pumutok noong ika-12 ng Enero 2020, ibinaba na ng Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) ang Alert Level ng Bulkang Taal sa Level 3,” Mandanas said in a statement.

“Kaugnay nito, binawi na rin ang iniutos na lockdown at binuksan ang opsyon o pagpili sa mga pinalikas na residente sa loob ng mga lugar na sakop ng 14-km danger zone radius, maliban sa mga nakatira at may mga hanapbuhay sa mga Bayan ng Agoncillo at Laurel, kung sila ay babalik na sa kanilang mga tirahan. No man’s land o isang permanent danger zone pa rin ang volcano island,” he added.

Mandanas also warned his constituents of possible lahar mudflow particularly in the towns of Laurel and Agoncillo and the neighboring towns of Cavite, especially when it rains.

“(Mag-ingat din) sa mga panganib na may kinalaman sa naganap na volcanic eruption, kabilang ang paglanghap ng abo at, pagkakaroon ng physical injuries o damage to properties dahil sa mga may sirang mga bahay at gusali, madudulas na kalsada, mga bitak sa lupa, at kawalan ng tubig at kuryente,” he said.

The Phivolcs lowered Taal Volcano's status from alert level 4 to alert level 3 on Sunday, January 26, which means decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.

It said that lesser volcanic earthquakes, decelerated ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Volcano Island, and weak steam or gas emissions at the main crater have been observed in the past days.

The agency however clarified that the volcano’s unrest has not ceased and that the threat of a hazardous eruption still exists.

In its report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a total of 98,187 families or 376,327 persons have been affected by the Taal eruption.

Of the total, 37,203 families or 135,365 individuals were served in the evacuation centers established by the government.

Power is still out in the areas included within the 7-kilometer danger zone of the Taal Volcano.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said over P59 million worth of assistance has been provided to the affected families.

Meanwhile, military officials said Mandanas has proposed for the local government to purchase the livestock and other animals that were left behind on Taal Island when the residents fled.

"(Kaya) ang ating provincial government, through Governor [Hermilando Mandanas, ay nag-propose na nga. Sinabi niya na sa council at sa mga mayors na bayaran, i-account na lang ng probinsiya 'yung mga alaga nilang hayop," Brigadier General Kit Teofilo, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force Taal, said.

"Kasi karamihan naman dito ay na-retrieve na through the effort na rin ng provincial government and LGUs. 'Yung mga naiwan pa, siyempre 'yun naman ang mga worries ng mga kababayan natin. Kaya nag-propose na lang 'yung ating provincial government na bayaran na lang ito," he added.

In Tagaytay City, the City Government announced the resumption of classes on Monday, January 27.

“Please be advised that upon the recommendation of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, classes in the schools in Tagaytay City will resume on Monday, January 27, 2020,” Tagaytay City Mayor Agnes Tolentino said.

However, to ensure the safety of the students, the local government will be distributing face masks to the students.

The NDRRMC said 264 cities and municipalities in Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Mimaropa, and the National Capital Region declared class suspension after the January 12 phreatomagmatic eruption of the Taal Volcano.

Classes in 228 cities and municipalities resumed on January 23. (SunStar Philippines)