Even with possible ‘hazardous’ Taal eruption, House to hold session in Batangas

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives wants to hold its plenary session on Wednesday, January 22, at the convention center in Batangas City, which is now swamped with work and mired in a flurry of activities as it hosts thousands of evacuees from the Taal Volcano eruption. 

Backed by other House leaders, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the proposal on Monday, January 20, the first session day of the 18th Congress in 2020, so that they could “listen” to the residents displaced by the volcanic eruption.

“The leadership of the House is proposing that we hold our session on Wednesday at the Batangas Convention Center… The proposal is that we move that we committee of the whole and listen to different representatives from all over Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, listen to the first responders, listen to those who are directly affected,” Cayetano said. 

As soon as the Speaker’s speech ended, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez made the motion for the lower chamber to hold its session in Batangas City, which is outside the danger zone. 

“Mister Speaker, in view of the unanimity in spirt and the consensus arrived at by the leaders of the  House in your office and  your instance, we move to hold the session this Wednesday at the Batangas City Convention Center at 1 pm,” Romualdez said.

The motion was immediately approved, with no legislator making objections. 

On Wednesday, the House leadership is expected to pass on 2nd reading the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience. The venue of the session, the Batangas City Convention Center, is located near the Batangas Sports Complex, the most crowded evacuation center for Taal evacuees. (READ: Taal Volcano's 2020 eruption: What we know so far)

The Taal Volcano remains restive for two weeks now, with state volcanologists strongly encouraging evacuees to stay out of the danger zone.

The volcano remains under Alert Level 4, which means a "hazardous" eruption is "imminent" or may occur "within days to hours.”

Both Batangas and Cavite declared a state of calamity, with thousands still staying in evacuation centers. (WATCH: Taal evacuees rummage for clothes that fit) 

The cost of agricultural damage so far in the region of Calabarzon is pegged at P3.06 billion. Ashfall destroyed various crops. (READ: How to stay safe during volcanic ashfall) 

The ashfall from Taal reached parts of Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Metro Manila, though air quality the latter area is now back to normal. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.