The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Monday said it may downgrade Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 in Taal Volcano, Batangas, should the decline in volcanic activity continue for two more weeks.
“We have to observe within two weeks as our stand-down procedures in lowering the alert,” PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum told a TV interview. “We can shorten that if the continued downtrend is very definite.”
In its 8 a.m. bulletin Monday, PHIVOLCS said Taal Volcano’s sulfur emission plunged to 87 tons per day compared to Jan. 13’s 5,299 tons per day.
The Taal Volcano Network recorded only 170 volcanic earthquakes, while activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours was characterized by weak to moderate emission of white steam-laden plumes 50 meters to 800 meters high that drifted northeast.
“There are some low-frequency volcanic earthquakes, but these are just [a] few. That would indicate there is still movement underneath,” Solidum said.
He said PHIVOLCS is not yet ruling out the possibility of a huge eruption.
“The chance of explosive eruption just got slimmer, but that does not mean there would be no more possibility of an eruption,” he said.
PHIVOLCS on Sunday downgraded the volcano’s Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 due to the decline in volcanic activity in the past two weeks.
Families affected by Taal’s eruption climbed to 103,443 or equivalent to 394,094 persons in the four CALABARZON (Region 4-A) provinces, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.
In its 6 a.m. update Monday, the NDRRMC said 38,377 families or around 137,447 persons from the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon, are temporarily sheltered in 532 evacuation centers while the rest are staying with either friends or relatives and being aided outside.
NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad on Sunday said residents living outside the 7-kilometer danger could return to their homes after PHIVOLCS on Sunday lowered the alert status of Taal Volcano.
The lowering of the alert status enabled local government units to allow some of the evacuees to return to their homes.
Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas has given residents of towns and cities in the province, except Agoncillo and Laurel which are still under lockdown, an option to return to their homes or work.
Towns, where residents have an option to return, are Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay, and Tanauan City. The volcano island remains under permanent lockdown.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said lawmakers and policymakers should start drawing up a comprehensive long-term plan for the rehabilitation of the province of Batangas.
Sotto said that while the government had started implementing short-term strategies to address the immediate needs of residents affected by the eruption, these would not be enough to help the province get back on its feet again.
“We have to start pooling our ideas to rehabilitate Batangas. We need permanent solutions to resolve post-disaster concerns and help Batangueños recover,” Sotto said.
Senator Francis Tolentino added that the focus now should be recovery for those affected by the volcano’s eruption.
When Taal Volcano erupted on Jan. 12, the economies of the provinces of Batangas and Cavite, particularly those of the towns of Talisay, Malvar, Tanauan, Agoncillo, Santa Teresita, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas and the City of Lipa, were greatly affected, with an estimated P6.6 billion in losses.
Also, more than 900,000 residents, including 4,000 who were moved out of Taal Volcano Island, have been affected or displaced by the eruption. With PNA