Police on Thursday warned defiant residents, who continued to enter the 14-kilometer danger zones in Batangas, that they will be the “last priority” in case of Taal Volcano’s explosive eruption.
PCol. Edwin Quilates, director of Batangas Provincial Police Office (PPO), said that PBrig. Gen. Vicente Danao, regional director of Police Regional Office-4A, issued the directive following persistence from some residents to return to their communities despite the total lockdown order.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has implemented total lockdown on 199 barangays within the 14-kilometer danger zone identified by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) as high-risk areas.
In fact, even police personnel deployed within the danger zone were pulled out yesterday to ensure their safety in case of violent eruption.
“If worse comes to worst, but hopefully not, they’ll be the last priority (to be brought out) because they have been given sufficient warnings to stay out of the 14-kilometer radius danger zone,” Quilates said.
While his troops want to stay within their designated posts, Quilates said that the order from the Phivolcs and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) was clear — leave all high-risk areas.
“You know, our policemen would rather stay and keep guard on the locked down areas because they know there would be those who would still attempt to gain access,” Quilates stated.
“But higher headquarters already gave an instruction to keep our personnel safe outside the 14-kilometer area,” he added.
Quilates, however, clarified that there will still be police visibility and checkpoints in strategic areas “just outside” the 14-kilometer radius.
“We have plotted security control points. We can still keep an eye on roads leading to locked down areas. We have identified 30 surrounding control points,” the official noted.
In support of the total lockdown order, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) closed two road sections in Batangas.
In a statement, the DPWH said these are the Tanauan — Talisay — Tagaytay Road and Talisay — Laurel — Agoncillo Road.
It added that deployed manpower and equipment on both road sections were on standby at the DPWH 3rd District Engineering Office (DEO) for the resumption of rescue and clearing operations.
The DPWH said as a safety precaution for personnel, clearing of ashfall, hauling of ashes, and pruning of trees on-road sections were being implemented outside the 14-km. radius danger zone.
Meanwhile, clearing operations in areas within the danger zone were temporarily suspended.
It added that a total of 499 personnel and 103 equipment deployed by DPWH-DEO in Region 4-A were providing necessary assistance, including transportation of relief goods to evacuation centers of areas affected.
The Phivolcs stressed that the probability of a huge eruption by Taal Volcano remains as it maintained the Alert Level 4 status as of press time Thursday.
Undersecretary Renato Solidum, Phivolcs officer in charge, placed the possibility at 30 percent at the highest, despite reduced sulfur dioxide emissions and fewer volcanic earthquakes were observed on the Taal Volcano.
Solidum explained during a press conference that the experts have arrived at the said figure after various scientific considerations were factored in.
The 30-percent probability, however, is still “high” especially for those in high-risk areas within the 14-kilometer radius from Taal Volcano’s main crater.
Solidum prodded vulnerable population not to lower their guard.
The probabilities, however, may change anytime.
In its 6 a.m. update on Thursday, the NDRRMC said that a total of 81,067 families equivalent to 316,989 people living in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon were affected by the 12 January eruption of Taal Volcano.
Of this number, 39,811 families equivalent to 147,873 individuals are residing in 500 evacuation centers.