Seismologists may lower the alert level over Taal Volcano if it shows reduced activity for the next two weeks.
But Ma. Antonia Bornas, chief of the Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said not everyone will be able to return to their homes, even if the alert level is lowered to Level 3.
Moreover, those who will be allowed to go back home must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice in case of an explosive eruption.
Earlier, PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum said the agency would have to observe for two weeks to see if there is a downtrend in the volcanic activity before deciding to bring down the alert level.
In yesterday’s bulletin, PHIVOLCS said “activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours has been characterized by weak emission of white steam-laden plumes 50 to 500 meters high from the main crater that drifted southwest.”
The emission of sulfur dioxide went down at an average of 153 tons per day, while only six non-felt volcanic earthquakes were recorded.
Alert Level 4 still remained in effect over Taal Volcano.
Despite the lull in the activity of Taal Volcano, Bornas is not ruling out a possible “hazardous explosive eruption within hours to days.”
She said it was difficult to conclude that the volcano was safe because of the presence of magma near the surface.
House adopted House Resolution 662 in response to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte for the passage of a P30-billion supplemental budget to augment the government’s calamity fund for Taal Volcano’s eruption. The House decided to increase the supplemental budget to P50 billion.
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“The Calamity Fund for the local government units is... depleting and is insufficient to provide relief and rehabilitation assistance to the affected areas,” the resolution said.
The House in plenary session also adopted House Resolution 655 urging “the immediate release of funds for the aid, relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, livelihood, development and social programs and services to communities adversely affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.”
In his speech, Cayetano said legislators would like to listen to the immediate needs and concerns of the Taal Volcano eruption victims, including barangay captains, mayors, and different representatives from evacuees.
“We are here to show Batangas, including Cavite and Laguna, that we love you as we love ourselves. Yes, there is a risk of being here, but you are facing that risk every single day,” Cayetano said.
“So, what is one day for your National Congress, the House of the People, to be here with you to listen and to hear so that we may legislate effectively,” he added.
Cayetano said it was the first time the chamber has held its session outside the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.
Present during the congressional session among others was barangay captain Jocelyn Bayanay of Alas-As, San Nicolas, Batangas who appealed for livelihood and financial assistance for the residents of her village.
Similarly, Agoncillo, Batangas Mayor Daniel Reyes noted that about 9,000 residents of his municipality are in evacuation centers at present.
Karen Olvina, a resident of Agoncillo, narrated the damage wrought by the eruption to her town.
Cayetano, together with House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, assured them the government has been working on livelihood programs for Taal Volcano victims.
The United States government on Wednesday announced P5.1 million worth of assistance to people affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim also joined Philippines Disaster Resilience Foundation partners to distribute supplies to evacuees in Calatagan, Batangas.
With this new funding, the United States Agency for International Development partner World Vision is providing relief supplies including soap, sleeping mats, and blankets, to nearly 7,600 people in the Nasugbu West Central School evacuation center in Batangas.
While at the evacuation site, the US ambassador spoke with families who were forced to evacuate their homes.
“I’m inspired by the strength and resilience of these families who faced such devastation and loss following the volcanic eruption. As friends, partners, and allies to the Philippines, we will continue to support our Philippine government counterparts as they work to address the needs of those communities most affected by the eruption,” Kim said.
In Calatagan, the US envoy thanked PDRF companies for their assistance to evacuees. “I have been very encouraged to see the private sector—American companies alongside Philippine companies—mobilize to address urgent needs of communities following the Taal volcanic eruption.”
PDRF is a major private sector vehicle and coordinator for disaster management in the Philippines.
In related developments:
The Department of Public Works and Highways temporarily stopped the repair and clearing operations of several road sections in Batangas, after some areas in Batangas province were placed under lockdown. “As a safety precaution for personnel, clearing of ashfall, hauling of ashes, and pruning of trees on road sections being implemented outside the 14-kilometer radius danger zone were temporarily suspended,” Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said. He said the DPWH-3rd District Engineering Office manpower and equipment are on standby to resume rescue and clearing operations.
The global Save the Children organization said about half a million people were made homeless by the Taal Volcano eruption and would need immediate and long-term support as they face growing uncertainty over whether they will ever be able to return to their towns and villages. Save the Children warned of a prolonged crisis that could see hundreds of thousands of people unable to return to their homes for months and forced to live in evacuation centers or with friends and relatives.
Senator Joel Villanueva called on the government to appoint a disaster czar to oversee the relief efforts in Batangas for residents displaced by Taal’s eruption. The senator said this was in response to reports that relief, food and hygiene packs were unevenly distributed in various evacuation centers. “Some evacuation centers have more than other places. If people are expected to stay longer in these evacuation centers, we must be able to manage our available resources well so we can cover the basic needs of our evacuees,” Villanueva said.
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