Taal Volcano’s eruption on 12 January had caused a calamity in places far wider than we thought.
And it is not confined to the 14-kilometer danger zone which the government and its security forces want locked down, but wider.
Far, far wider.
The danger zone is just that — the towns and cities under threat of ashfall and probably magma explosion once the Taal Volcano’s mouth spews more fire as it was expected as of this writing.
These places should not have human movement. But they continue to be visited by the locals and residents who cannot abandon their homes.
They have displayed an attachment to their condemned properties, that they would risk their lives to guard them against the earth’s natural forces which could not be beat.
They are armed with only hopes and prayers that the mountain does not bring them economic pestilence, the initial effects of which they now feel in the evacuation centers which are now under threat of diseases and possibly soon, of drying supplies expected from donor fatigue.
It is at this point when the national and local governments should double their efforts to meet the needs of the evacuees. But with nearly 200,000 individuals directly displaced by the initial eruption, government is expected to spend some P20 million daily for the evacuees’ food supply alone.
The longer this calamity stays, the more government and the private donors will have to take care of our brothers and sisters from Batangas and Cavite. Until when we can hold on is a question all of us would not like to face.
Seldom reported, too, is the effect of the catastrophe to the students even in areas not directly affected by the Taal eruption.
Displaced by the evacuees are the students and teachers who have lost their classrooms to make space for the Taal Volcano’s direct victims.
We should consider them as victims, too.
No less than the Department of Education in Batangas has appealed to the government to relocate the displaced families to proper evacuation centers so that the students can go back to attending their classes.
While public schools are among the government-owned properties which could serve as evacuation centers during calamities, they should be the last in the roster after gymnasiums, covered basketball courts, dedicated evacuation centers, government halls and buildings have been tapped.
Merthel Evardome, School Division Superintendent of Batangas Province, summed it up by saying: “No amount of calamity should stop our children from studying.” And she could not be wrong.
Evardome issued an appeal to the local government executives to provide a system of taking in evacuees from the directly affected areas of Batangas.
A transfer, the official said, is necessary so as not to disrupt the children’s education, which for two weeks now has been interrupted by the movements and chaos that ringed Taal’s eruption.
A total of 2,558 classrooms are now rendered for use as evacuation centers in Batangas alone. This already disrupted the education of some 50,000 students in the affected communities.
Everyone seems to be talking at the same time. But they are sending conflicting signals that order is now being demanded by the evacuees themselves. These are evident even in the most basic process of distribution of relief goods in evacuation centers.
It is time for the national government to strengthen the groups and committees now facing the Taal issue.
They should not leave the management of these concerns to the local government units, unless chaos marks the already stressful life the evacuees have been dealing with since Day One.