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Alert level 4 stays amid eruption fears

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Saturday said the threat of a catastrophic eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas remained high.

CONFUSING CALM. An aerial view of Taal Volcano on Saturday, six days after its unforeseen phreatic eruption on Jan. 12. AFP
Amid weak emissions and fewer volcanic earthquakes, the volcano is still under Alert Level 4, which means a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days,” director Renato Solidum said.

In the past 24 hours, the volcano’s main crater steadily emitted steam and had infrequent weak explosions.

Solidum’s statements were made as an evacuee from the Taal eruption was reported to have sudden cardiac death while at an evacuation center in Batangas.

READ: Duterte wants in on Taal situation

The victim, identified on Super Radyo dzBB, beamed nationwide, as 57-year-old Felina de Roxas of San Nicolas, Batangas, was reportedly doing laundry at the San Antonio Elementary School evacuation center when she experienced difficulty in breathing.

The victim apparently had been suffering from hypertension and asthma conditions.

Solidum said there was still “intense” activity underneath as magma continued to move beneath.

“We see different things above ground from what is happening underground,” he added.

He reminded residents within the 14-kilometer radius of the volcano to move out since the area was susceptible to base surges once a strong eruption occurs.

The Taal Volcano Network recorded 876 volcanic earthquakes, including six tremors and 20 low-frequency earthquakes.

“Such intense seismic activity likely signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity,” it said. 

In a related development, some residents of Tanauan City have been permitted temporarily to enter the 14-kilometer permanent danger zone after they appealed to local authorities that they needed to get their belongings and feed their livestock.

Authorities allotted one hour to some residents to enter the zone at past 6 a.m., according to a Balitanghali Weekend report heard nationwide.

READ: Atom-bomb like blast feared

This, after residents kept arriving at checkpoints from dawn until sunrise, requesting that they be allowed to return to their homes.

Some even went emotional, with one angry resident saying that while they might not have died due to the explosion of Taal Volcano, they were slowly dying because of the situation.

Residents, allowed by authorities against the order of Tanauan Mayor Sweet Halili, were required to present their IDs at checkpoints, and were fetched by barangay officials in the event they overstayed.

An emergency meeting will be held by the local government unit of Tanauan to discuss their next action plan, as the permission to residents by authorities was not ordered by Halili.

Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian underscored the need for a SIM card registration law to run after perpetrators of hoax messages on mobile phones in relation to the Taal disaster.

READ: Taal rumbles, spews ash

Gatchalian pointed out how the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology repeatedly flagged the spread of false and unverified information, which caused public panic and confusion.   

He said mandatory registration for prepaid SIM cards would make it easier for authorities to track down the perpetrators of fake news and make them accountable for their actions.

“We witnessed these past days, the government is exerting efforts to enaure the safety of our people. But there are some who have been spreading wrong information that create confusion and worries,” he said.

Gatchalian cited Republic Act 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act which imposes a fine of up to P10,000 and imprisonment of up to six months for persons who spread false or misleading data or information in times of calamities.

Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 176 or the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act. 

Under the proposed measure, end users of prepaid SIM cards shall be required to present a valid ID and sign a control-numbered registration form issued by the service provider of the purchased SIM card. Copies of the accomplished forms shall be furnished to the same service provider and the National Telecommunications Commission.

READ: Big business to the rescue: BPI, SM pour in aid

In filing the bill, Gatchalian lamented the unabated rate by which SIM cards flood markets, which he called a magnet for nefarious and illegal activities from untraceable numbers.   

Gatchalian also took note that SIM card registration was mandatory in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

He also called on the public to be more vigilant on the messages and information they receive concerning Taal Volcano’s activity. He also cited the need to boost digital literacy skills to combat the spread of disinformation.

Topics: Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology , Taal Volcano , Batangas , Earthquakes , Renato Solidum
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