President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled today, Jan. 20, to lead the ceremonial distribution of food packs to families affected by the Taal Volcano eruption at the PUP Gymnasium in Santo Tomas, Batangas.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the President will be accompanied by Cabinet members in his visit.
President Duterte went to Batangas on Tuesday for a situation briefing on the effects of Taal Volcano, which was also attended by Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and some Cabinet members.
During the meeting, the President approved the proposal that no one should live on the Taal Volcano island, which is part of the 14-kilometer danger zone identified by authorities.
After the briefing, Duterte also went to the Batangas Provincial Sports Complex, which currently houses hundreds of displaced families, and handed over P11-million livelihood assistance to the farmers and fishermen affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.
The financial assistance extended by the President came from the Department of Agriculture’s budget, according to a press statement from the Palace.
Meanwhile, Panelo on Sunday shot down the proposal to centralize relief and rehabilitation operations to those affected by the eruption, saying measures are in place to help the displaced families.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Sunday said Taal victims have been given P17.23 million worth of assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health and local government units.
In its situational report during the weekend, the NDRRMC noted that 22,472 families or 96,061 people have been affected in Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite by Taal Volcano’s eruption.
Of this number, 16,174 families or 70,413 people are staying temporarily in 300 evacuation centers.
READ: Taal in mind, Duterte wants calamity-proof evac centers
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, alert Level 4 was still in effect over Taal Volcano Saturday morning, with a hazardous explosive eruption possible within hours to days.
A total of 691 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded by the Philippine Seismic Network from 1 p.m. of Jan. 12 until Saturday, Jan. 19.
Of this number, 175 had magnitudes ranging from 1.2 to 4.1 and were felt at Intensities I to V.
As of Saturday, power has been restored in 17 cities and municipalities in Cavite, Laguna and Batangas.
The DOH deployed to Batangas five Health Emergency Response Teams from five DOH hospitals: Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, Rizal Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and National Children’s Hospital.
The Department of Public Works and Highways said it has conducted cleaning and clearing of ash fall, hauling of ashes, and pruning of trees on road sections outside the danger zone.
The Philippine National Police-Balete Municipal Station, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force on Saturday patrolled the territorial waters of Balete, Batangas to prevent evacuees from returning to their homes.
Meanwhile, private donors in Quezon City, including transport and labor groups, prepared relief goods on Sunday for more than 10,000 evacuees in neighboring Batangas province who fled their homes due to the eruption of Taal Volcano a week ago.
The instant noodles, rice, canned goods, napkins, diapers, and hygiene kits will be sent to evacuees in San Luis town, south of the capital.
Senator Richard J. Gordon said the Philippine Red Cross is studying the best areas to put up an emergency medical unit in Batangas to accommodate ill residents following the closure of at least six hospitals due to the rage of Taal Volcano.
The way things are going, he said they have to prepare for a possible increase in cases of respiratory illness.
“The hospitals there may not be able to accommodate all the patients,” Gordon said.
He added Red Cross teams deployed to Batangas assisted other government agencies in evacuating seriously-ill patients from the six hospitals.
Gordon also instructed Red Cross chapters in Metro Manila as well as in Bulacan to send additional staff and volunteers to augment the teams already deployed to Batangas.
Senator Francis Pangilinan on Sunday urged the Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to formulate a comprehensive inter-agency fund assistance program for affected residents around the volcano.
READ: Duterte assures funds enough to help victims
“This program may include several forms of assistance like outright cash assistance, [or a] moratorium on amortization,” Pangilinan said.
To assist those affected, government financial institutions such as Pag-IBIG, GSIS, and SSS can extend financial assistance to its members and/or interest-free emergency calamity loans, with the deferment of loan payments for at least six months, he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, called for mental health support for families affected by the Taal eruption, especially children and those in evacuation centers.
“There’s a need for mental first aid,” Hontiveros said, citing the trauma that went with the disaster.
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called on the government to draw up a program to rescue and transport pets and livestock left behind during calamities.
Aside from the pet dogs and cats, other animals, such as horses, carabaos, and other livestock, De Lima said have either died or suffered severe burns following the recent eruption of Taal Volcano.
“I join the plea of animal rights organizations and rescue volunteers to save the animals left behind in the areas severely affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption. It breaks my heart to see these pets and animals helplessly suffering and dying,” she said.
“We need to revisit our national disaster preparedness program to include the animals, including strays, who may need to be rescued, fed, and transported to safe grounds, especially those from owners who were forced to leave them,” she added.
Private donors in Quezon City prepared relief goods on Sunday for some 10,000 evacuees in Batangas province. The canned goods, instant noodles, diapers, napkins, packed rice, and hygiene kits would go to evacuees in San Luis town. The Metro Manila Hatchback Community, Defend Job Philippines, Laban TNVS, Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection, and the Quezon City Anti-Corruption were among the groups behind the effort.
The new ride-hailing motorcycle service, JoyRide, on Sunday also promised to help victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.
“I’m very happy that our riders are willing to help each other, especially the victims. Donations will reach them,” vice president for corporate affairs Noli Eala said.
He said JoyRide, an all-Filipino ride-hailing service, has partnered with the Philippine Red Cross-Batangas chapter and RCS Logistics Phils Inc. for urgent relief operations and recovery efforts since Jan. 16.
JoyRide on Sunday delivered at least two trucks of relief goods of food and non-food items, such as clothes, sleeping mats, medicine, face masks, towels and blankets, and hygiene kits.
Chester Keith Villafuerte, Philippine Red Cross-Batangas operations officer, lauded the initiative of JoyRide to fill the gap in the non-food items needed by the evacuees.
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