Taal alert level down to 2

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - – He­len Flores, Ar­nell Oza­eta, El­iz­a­beth Marcelo

State vol­ca­nol­o­gists down­graded yes­ter­day the alert sta­tus of Taal Vol­cano in Batan­gas to level 2, which sig­ni­fies “de­creased un­rest,” more than a month af­ter it erupted and forced the evac­u­a­tion of over 400,000 people.

The Philip­pine In­sti­tute of Vol­canol­ogy and Seis­mol­ogy (Phivolcs), how­ever, stressed that the down­grade should not be in­ter­preted as ces­sa­tion of un­rest or that the threat of erup­tion has ceased.

“Sud­den steam-driven or phreatic ex­plo­sions, vol­canic earth­quakes, ash­fall and lethal ac­cu­mu­la­tions or ex­pul­sions of vol­canic gas can oc­cur and threaten ar­eas within the Taal Vol­cano is­land and along its coast,” the agency said in an ad­vi­sory.

On Jan. 26, Phivolcs low­ered the alert sta­tus of Taal from 4 (haz­ardous erup­tion im­mi­nent) to 3 (de­creased ten­dency to­ward haz­ardous erup­tion).

“Since Jan. 26, Taal Vol­cano’s con­di­tion in the suc­ceed­ing three weeks has been char­ac­ter­ized by less fre­quent vol­canic earthquake ac­tiv­ity, sta­bi­liz­ing ground de­for­ma­tion of the Taal Caldera and Taal Vol­cano Is­land (TVI) ed­i­fices and weak steam/gas emis­sions at the main crater,” it said.

“The num­ber and en­ergy of tremor and low-fre­quency events as­so­ci­ated with ac­tiv­ity in the shal­low magma and hy­dro­ther­mal re­gion be­neath the TVI ed­i­fice have also di­min­ished,” Phivolcs noted.

“The over­all ground de­for­ma­tion be­hav­ior of Taal Vol­cano for the above pe­ri­ods (be­tween Jan. 13 and Feb. 11) in­di­cates post-erup­tive sub­si­dence and re­lax­ation of the ed­i­fice af­ter the ces­sa­tion of magma trans­port,” it said.

It said the sul­fur diox­ide emit­ted by Taal av­er­aged 62 tons per day since Jan. 26, which was con­sis­tent with a weakly de­gassing shal­low magma source.

“Ac­tiv­ity in the main crater has been char­ac­ter­ized by the gen­er­a­tion of weak steam-laden plumes, con­sis­tent with de­creased mag­matic un­rest,” the agency added.

At Alert Level 2, Phivolcs con­tin­ued to pro­hibit the en­try to Taal Vol­cano is­land, which is a per­ma­nent danger zone.

In a bul­letin re­leased by Batan­gas Gov. Her­mi­lando Man­danas, they will con­tinue de­liv­er­ing ba­sic ser­vices to af­fected fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing in the de­clared danger zones.

This in­cluded fam­i­lies still liv­ing in the pro­vin­cial evac­u­a­tion cen­ters in Barangay Malainin and Barangay Talai­bon in Ibaan, Batan­gas.

As of yes­ter­day, 8,379 in­di­vid­u­als, or 2,348 fam­i­lies, are still liv­ing at 69 evac­u­a­tion ar­eas in Batan­gas, Cavite and Que­zon.

Man­danas said fam­i­lies stay­ing in the in­terim evac­u­a­tion ar­eas will move to their per­ma­nent set­tle­ment ar­eas – where the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment will also pro­vide reg­u­lar and sta­ble liveli­hood – as soon as the hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties be­come avail­able.

The prov­ince is cur­rently fi­nal­iz­ing poli­cies and me­chan­ics for cash as­sis­tance dis­tri­bu­tion.

Re­lo­ca­tions

The De­part­ment of Hu­man Set­tle­ments and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (DHSUD) has cre­ated a team that would lead the per­ma­nent re­lo­ca­tion of about 5,000 fam­i­lies liv­ing within the Taal danger zone.

“We have just cre­ated a com­mit­tee that would co­or­di­nate with the af­fected house­holds for their re­lo­ca­tion. We al­ready have more than 5,000 hous­ing units ready for oc­cu­pancy,” Hu­man Set­tle­ments Sec­re­tary Ed­uardo del Rosario told re­porters yes­ter­day.

The creation of the com­mit­tee came a week af­ter Pres­i­dent Duterte ap­proved the pro­posal of the DHSUD to re­lo­cate res­i­dents liv­ing within Taal’s seven-kilo­me­ter danger-zone ra­dius to hous­ing units orig­i­nally al­loted by the Na­tional Hous­ing Au­thor­ity for mil­i­tary and po­lice per­son­nel.

Del Rosario said the hous­ing units will be given for free to res­i­dents who will agree to per­ma­nent re­lo­ca­tion.

“About 5,000 to 6,000 hous­ing units are needed for the re­lo­ca­tion of these res­i­dents liv­ing within the Taal danger zone,” Del Rosario said.

“As it turns out, there are 5,448 un­oc­cu­pied hous­ing units, which mem­bers of po­lice and the mil­i­tary have de­cided to do­nate to the af­fected res­i­dents,” he said.

The hous­ing units are lo­cated in the prov­inces of Batan­gas, Cavite, La­guna and Que­zon. Del Rosario as­sured the af­fected res­i­dents that the re­lo­ca­tion sites have sta­ble wa­ter and elec­tric­ity.

Del Rosario said about 180 fam­i­lies are now oc­cu­py­ing hous­ing units in Barangay Talai­bon in Ibaan town in Batan­gas.

“With the creation of the com­mit­tee, we hope that more af­fected res­i­dents would be con­vinced to be re­lo­cated,” Del Rosario said.

Taal Vol­cano’s un­rest last month af­fected more than 483,000 in­di­vid­u­als or about 129,000 fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to dis­as­ter man­age­ment of­fi­cials.

RUS­SELL PALMA

Taal Vol­cano is seen from Ag­oncillo town in Batan­gas yes­ter­day as the gov­ern­ment down­graded the alert level for Taal a month af­ter it spewed ash in a phreatic ex­plo­sion. In­set shows res­i­dents re­turn­ing to their home in Barangay Pook in Ag­oncillo town.

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