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LGUs allow limited access to Taal volcano-affected areas

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Recent Disasters: Police officers guard a road near the erupting Taal Volcano in Talisay, Batangas on Jan. 13. -- REUTERS/ELOISA LOPEZ

SOME local government units in areas affected by the Taal volcano eruption allowed their residents to go home on Friday to feed their livestock, amid the seeming decrease in Taal Volcano’s activity this week.

“So ang sabi ni hepe sa amin nitong meeting namin, nagbigay siya ng oras para magpunta yung mga taga doon para mapakain ang kanilang mga alagang hayop (So out boss said in our meeting that he would give time for people from those areas to return to feed their lifestock),” Jose Clyde Yayong, Chief of the Tagaytay City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, said in a briefing which was streamed on Facebook.

Free services continue to be provided for evacuees, including dental services, hair cuts, and film showings, Mr. Yayong said.

“Tuloy-tuloy ang mga serbisyo na binibigay sa mga evacuees na nadito sa Tagaytay. Dental services, libreng gupit, film showing, meron pong konting pag entertain sa mga evacuees po para hindi masyadong malungkot sa evacuation center so tuloy-tuloy po yung gawa ng local government units (We continue to provide services to evacuees here in Tagaytay. Dental services, free haircuts, film showing, a bit of entertainment for the evacuees so they do not get too depressed in the evacuation centers),” he said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned there is still a 30% chance that there will be an explosive eruption and that people should stay out of the 14-kilometer danger area.

Phivolcs Director Renato U. Solidum, Jr. said in a conference on Friday that even with the apparently waning activity in the volcano’s crater, they have seen signs that show a risk of a destructive explosion similar to the eruption of 1754.

“There is a three out of 10 chance that the 1754 eruption may happen. It’s the 1754 that is the scale…. and 30% is very high,” Mr. Solidum said.

Taal volcano’s 1754 eruption was the most powerful of those recorded in historical data. That eruption lasted for over six months.

Phivolcs recorded “weak to moderate emission of white steam-laden plumes that went as high as 500 meters” in the past 24 hours according to the bulletin released at 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 24.

The agency also measured an average of 224 tons of sulfur dioxide released, according to its 8 a.m. report. This is higher than the 141 tons it measured on Thursday morning.

Phivolcs has also recorded 738 volcanic earthquakes since the Jan. 12 eruption, 176 of which were felt with intensities 1 to 5.

More than 88,000 families in Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Cavite were affected by Taal volcano’s eruption, according to the local disaster agency’s 6 a.m. report.

Over 37,300 families are taking temporary shelter in 488 evacuation centers while 37,230 families are being served outside them, it said.

Taal Volcano remained under Alert Level 4, which means a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”

In a separate development, 1PACMAN Party List Rep. Michael L. Romero filed House Bill 5763 seeking P3 billion in funding for the Phivolcs Modernization Act of 2019.

The amount is expected to equip Phivolcs with the latest instruments and equipment to improve the agency’s capabilities for warning, assessing, and monitoring volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunami activity.

Under the bill, the Phivolcs Modernization Program will be implemented for an initial period of two years.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) will be mandated to release P1.5 billion to Phivolcs for each year of implementation.

“Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have killed thousands of Filipinos and robbed them of their future and fortune. It is time to fight back and arm ourselves with state-of-the-art life-saving instruments and equipment available here and abroad,” Mr. Romero said. — Genshen L. Espedido

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