Large fissures or cracks were spotted in several towns in Batangas on Tuesday–a clear indication of continued intense activity of Taal Volcano and a hazardous eruption is still imminent.
This, as President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday personally inspected the areas affected by the Sunday eruption of Taal Volcano, particularly in Batangas province.
“He wants to see for himself the devastation brought by the eruption. And from there, he would, I suppose, be making orders to respond to whatever problems he would see there,” Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Philippin e Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) chief Undersecretary Renato Solidum noted Taal Volcano’s lava fountaining and interaction of magma and water that cause hydro-volcanic activity. These sparked emission of up to two kilometers.
Solidum explained that the strong earthquakes in the vicinity of Taal Volcano since Sunday, which already resulted in huge fissures on the ground, also indicated that magma is still going up the surface.
Such volcanic activity prompted Phivolcs to raise Alert Level which means that a hazardous eruption is possible within days.
“There are reports of fissuring in various towns around Taal Volcano, this is associated most likely to the magma moving up that causes pressure to the faults or fissures that is triggering the earthquakes,” Solidum explained during a briefing in Malacanang.
As of yesterday, Phivolcs said that the fissures appeared in barangays Sinisian, Mahabang Dahilig, Dayapan, Palanas, Sangalang, and Poblacion in Lemery town; Barangay Pansipit in Agoncillo; Poblacion 1, Poblacion 2, Poblacion 3, and Poblacion 5 in Talisay; and Poblacion in San Nicolas.
The road connecting Agoncillo to Laurel, Batangas also showed a crack.
“What we see above is one aspect of the volcanic activity of Taal Volcano and there is still magma going up. The speed of magma in going up is important as to when a strong eruption could happen or if it will be gradual or if it will freeze,” Solidum said.
“Alert Level 4 remains, meaning a dangerous explosive eruption or hazardous explosive eruption remains. It can happen possibly within hours or days,” he added.
Solidum junked as false the information that Alert Level 5 has been raised or that explosive eruption has already happened.
Mariton Bornas, chief of Volcano Monitoring & Eruption Prediction Division of Phivolcs, said that the fissuring sometimes become degassing vents which may emit steam or other chemical compounds from the volcano.
Bornas, however, stressed that the cracks are not harmful unless they become really big.
She cited that in 1911 eruption of Taal Volcano, there were even land areas that sunk after the fissuring.
Meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Casiano Monilla said that as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, a total of 6,891 families composed of 30,423 individuals have been evacuated to safer grounds.
Of the number, 6,317 families came from Batangas while 574 were from Cavite.
Monilla said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been providing supplies and services to 118 evacuation centers immediately put up after the eruption.
He said that most of the power outages in Batangas were preemptive and could be restored when it is declared safe.
The National Food Authority (NFA) assured that there is enough rice stock to aid residents affected by the eruption.
NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal announced that the Operation Centers (OPCEN) in NFA central and field offices have been activated immediately on a 24-hour basis to attend to the needs of the evacuees.
“We have sufficient rice stocks in the regions and provinces affected by the ashfall. There are NFA employees who are on the skeletal force in central and field offices and in warehouses, ready to serve the requirement of the LGU, DSWD and other relief agencies should they need rice for the ashfall victims,” Dansal said.
The latest inventory showed that provinces and areas affected by the ashfall from the Taal eruption such as Region 4A has a total rice equivalent of 1,930,000 bags; NCR has 197,000 bags, while Region 3 has 1,963,000 bags.
Dansal likewise assured the public that the government rice is safe for human consumption.
“They are stored in properly maintained warehouses and would not be affected by the ashfall,” Dansal said.
MVP firms respond
Meanwhile, the Tulong Kapatid, the consortium of companies and foundations of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, has mobilized relief efforts in the wake of the Taal Volcano eruption.
The Tulong Kapatid assistance come in the form of power, water, communication, food and relief packs being deployed to affected communities.
One Meralco Foundation, the social development arm and corporate foundation of the Meralco, has set up solar mobile charging stations at evacuation centers within the vicinity of Taal Volcano. The service is initially available at the evacuation center in Alfonso, Cavite.
Meralco, in coordination with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) will provide generator sets to various organizations and evacuation centers. Manpower for the operation of these gensets will also be provided by Meralco. PDRF also helped in the provision of face masks.
The power distribution network of Meralco in the affected areas is operating normally, except in parts of Tagaytay City and Canlubang.
Another Pangilinan-controlled company, the Maynilad Water Services Inc. is working with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to deploy 13 water tankers for the needs of affected communities. It is also providing 2,000 6-liter bottles of water.
The Makati Medical Center Foundation is supplying 2,400 bottles of mineral water in partnership with Le Minerale to affected residents.
Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) also mobilized its teams to aid in clearing operations. It is currently providing water for windshields of affected CALAX motorists. MPTC is also clearing ashfall at carriageways to ensure safe passage of all vehicles. MPTC will also mobilize relief efforts to affected communities.
The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and subsidiary Smart Communications have provided communication support and load credits to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority volunteers to help facilitate the evacuation, rescue and relief of affected Batangas residents.
The communication services of PLDT and Smart are operating normally in affected areas, except for those that are experiencing commercial power outages.
Francis T. Wakefield @tribunephl_FTW