By Azer Parrocha
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is satisfied with the warnings issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) about Taal Volcano’s activity, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Despite Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.’s call for a probe into the alleged Phivolcs failure to inform the public about the volcano’s imminent eruption, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended the agency saying that volcanic eruptions cannot easily be predicted.
“As if malalaman mo kung kailan puputok ang bulkan (As if you can determine when a volcano will erupt),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Unlike typhoons which can be predicted before it reaches the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), Panelo said eruptions were unable to determine before it occurs.
Despite this, Panelo said the Phivolcs is still able to determine the number and intensity of Taal’s volcanic tremors, prompting them to raise the alert level to 4 which means “hazardous eruption is possible within days.”
He praised Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr., also Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary, for explaining what was going on inside the volcano.
“Magaling nga itong si Director Solidum eh, mahusay magpaliwanag eh (Director Solidum is very good, he explains well),” Panelo said.
Panelo also assured that damaged or outdated equipment of the Phivolcs will also be replaced to improve the agency’s capability to monitor volcanic activity.
“That goes without saying. Kung may nasira, di kailangan palitan (If it’s damaged, it needs to be replaced),” Panelo said. “Pag nag-request sila na kailangan nila ang isang bagay to make them more effective, siyempre ibibigay natin (If they request for equipment to make them more effective, of course, we will give it to them).”
Panelo, however, said it was the prerogative of the House of Representatives to investigate the Phivolcs’ information dissemination on Taal Volcano’s unrest.
“We cannot stop them or discourage them — that is their call,” Panelo said.
In a Virtual Presser on Wednesday, Solidum denied that there was a delay in the warnings released by Phivolcs, insisting that smaller eruptions are not designed for warning.
Solidum also said the agency has “always been repeating the possible large eruption of the volcano” as early as March 2019.
To protect residents living near Taal Volcano from the threat of a hazardous eruption of Taal Volcano, Panelo said the implementation of “no man’s land” should be strictly enforced.
On Tuesday, Duterte approved the recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to declare Taal Island as “no man’s land” or that it has no permanent habitation.
“Ever since that’s supposed to be a no man’s land. Ever since danger zone iyon, talagang hindi dapat tumitira doon (people shouldn’t really live there),” Panelo said.
He acknowledged that the livelihood of the residents there may be affected, but assured that the government would allot funds for their permanent relocation.
“Hahanapan natin kung saang lugar puwede, marami pa namang lupa ang Pilipinas eh (We will find a place for them to stay. The Philippines has a wide expanse of land),” Panelo said.
Panelo, meanwhile, echoed the statement made by Lorenzana that there are enough resources to assist victims of Taal Volcano’s eruption and that there is no need to seek aid from foreign countries.
Alert Level 4 is still raised over Taal Volcano and a state of calamity has been declared in Batangas and Cavite.
Solidum earlier said evacuees cannot still go back to their homes, even if Alert Level 4 is lowered to Alert Level 2 or 3. (PNA)