About 2,000 police officers who were deployed to assist affected families of the Taal Volcano eruption were pulled out from the volcano’s danger zone, the Philippine National Police said on Thursday.
PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the police officers were pulled out from Batangas effective Wednesday night in compliance with the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
They were ordered to report back to their respective units and return to normal duties.
Banac said local police units and the Police Regional Office 4-A’s (Calabarzon) search and rescue unit would continue to provide security and assistance in the relief operations in the region for those affected by the volcanic activity.
All police pulled out of the danger zone were instructed to undergo a medical checkup for any sign of respiratory ailments after days of deployment near the volcano.
Some residents have been allowed to return to their homes after the alert level at the volcano was lowered to Level 3, but those residing in six barangays in Agoncillo and Laurel towns, which are within the seven-kilometer danger zone, may not return.
President Duterte on Wednesday night ordered the withdrawal of police personnel within Taal Volcano’s danger zone, expressing concern over the health of deployed cops as they were prone to inhaling volcanic ash particles which may cause respiratory problems.
Duterte said he will leave it to local government officials and local police to enforce laws preventing people from returning to Taal Volcano’s danger zone.
The President said police personnel could only “do so much” in preventing residents who insisted on returning to the volcano’s danger zone.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the volcano is still not safe due to the presence of magma five kilometers below the crater.
“It could solidify or could rise. But the magma can no longer go down,” PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum Jr. said.
He said PHIVOLCS is responsible for providing data and information about Taal’s volcanic activity, but it is the local governments that decide if their constituents should return to their homes.
In its 8 a.m. bulletin yesterday, the Philippine Seismic Network said activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours was characterized by weak emission of white to dirty white steam-laden plumes 300 meters to 500 meters tall that drifted southwest.
The emission of sulfur dioxide was below instrumental detection.
Only seven volcanic earthquakes were plotted from Jan. 29, 5 a.m. until Jan. 30, 5 a.m.
However, the Taal Volcano Network, which can record small earthquakes, recorded two low-frequency earthquakes and one harmonic tremor that lasted for 97 seconds.
“These earthquakes signify magmatic activity beneath the Taal edifice that could lead to eruptive activity at the main crater,” PHIVOLCS said in its bulletin on Thursday.
The number of families affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano has so far reached 124,764 in the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon.
Families staying in 415 evacuation centers have declined to 19,131 from 35,574 on Wednesday while the remainder has either returned to their houses or are still staying with relatives and friends.
In its 6 a.m. update Thursday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said this is equivalent to 464,728 persons. With PNA
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