Dozens evacuated from Taal Volcano Island in Batangas

Around 60 people were evacuated from Barangay Pulo in Taal Volcano Island on Tuesday morning, February 16, following recommendations from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"May namo-monitor na mga abnormalities kaya minarapat na paalisin sila dahil hindi naman puwedeng manuluyan ng permanente sa Taal Volcano Island," said Phivolcs senior volcanologist Paolo Reniva.

(We monitored abnormalities so authorities decided it was best to evacuate the people, and permanently residing in Taal Volcano Island is not allowed.)

The agency has long recommended that entry into Taal Volcano Island be strictly prohibited.

On Monday, February 15, Phivolcs warned that it observed an increase in tremors at the volcano and changes in the Main Crater Lake. Taal Volcano has been under Alert Level 1 since March 19, 2020, and "sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions" remain possible.

Talisay police chief Police Captain Llewelyn Reyes said those who were evacuated on Tuesday are not residents of the island, but only go there during the day to tend to fish cages.

"Wala naman halos tumitigil doon bukod sa [nagpapakain] ng isda sa fish cages. Minsan nagpapalipas ng gabi doon gawa iniiwasan ang nakawan ng isda. Ang Talisay [police] naman ay may contact number ng bawat isa sa kanila at napayuhan na rin sila before pa mangyari ang order ng Phivolcs," Reyes said.

(No one really goes there except for those feeding fish in the fish cages. Sometimes they spend the night there to prevent fish from being stolen. The Talisay police have the contact numbers of those people and they've been made aware of the volcano's status even before Phivolcs gave its latest recommendation.)

Authorities were meeting on Tuesday to discuss the next steps in ensuring public safety and to agree on a system that will allow locals to continue their livelihood.

In January 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Taal Volcano Island "no man's land" shortly after the volcano erupted. He ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government to relocate 4,000 people who lived there.

"Pinagbabawal ng national government, pero dahil walang hanapbuhay, 'di naman natin mapigilan dahil nando'n ang kanilang kabuhayan. Sana 'pag araw eh payagan at umuwi na lang sa gabi. Wala naman maibigay na hanapbuhay at puro sa dagat umaasa," said Talisay Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan.

(The national government is prohibiting people from going to the island, but we can't stop them from going there because their source of livelihood is there. We should allow them to go there during daytime and then they can just go home at night. There's no other source of livelihood being offered to them and they only depend on the lake to earn a living.)

Natanauan said that, to date, over 200 families remain in evacuation centers in Talisay and have not been relocated to proper homes. –