Taal Volcano evacuees appeal: ‘We need cash aid’

BATANGAS, Philippines – Many residents affected by the Taal Volcano eruption were grateful for the donations they got, but more than the relief packs, they said they need cash to start anew.

Emelita Begornia, 67, walked around the Batangas City Sports Complex clutching a bible in her bag.

"Kahit isang singkong duling, wala!," Begornia said. (I don't have a single cent.)

Begornia, a resident of the municipality of Taal, came to Batangas City with her 4 daughters, all single mothers, and her 12 grandchildren, to seek refuge from the restive volcano on January 12.

The relief goods were more than enough, she said, but their house needed repairs. Staying more than two weeks at the evacuation center, her family didn't have any income.

"Ang gusto ko, [tulong] pinansiyal. Ang aking [bahay] ay kahit gay'on ay nakatindig pa rin, pero puro crack," Begornia said. (What I want is financial aid. My house is still standing, but it has a lot of cracks.)

Begornia is not an isolated case. When Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12, more than 500 earthquakes followed. The groundshaking has damaged thousands of homes.

Marissa Parcon, 60, is worried not just about a house full of cracks but also her son's livelihood. The breadwinner, Parcon's son is a cement mixer, but there were no construction projects because of the volcanic eruption.

"Siyempre, pagdating po ninyo [sa bahay] ay wala po kayong makukwan. Eh ’yun pong kukunin pang aming bahay, at ’yung ang aming mga pagkain, wala po kaming hanapbuhay. Yun pong aming kailangang-kailangan talaga po’y pinansiyal [na tulong]," Parcon said.

(Of course, when we got back, we don't have anything. We need to spend for our house and our food, but we don't have livelihood now. We really need financial aid.)

President Rodrigo Duterte planned to kas Congress for a P30-billion supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of the affected areas.

From the proposed supplemental budget, Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the government to provide at least P30,000 in cash aid to Taal Volcano eruption survivors. She said the amount should be regarded as an "initial assistance" to evacuees, pending a complete post-disaster assessment. (LIST: Relief proposals for Taal Volcano evacuees)

"Hindi naman kami nahingi ng malaking halaga. Kung ano'ng 'pagkaloob sa amin," Begornia said. (We're not asking for a huge amount. Any amount will do.)

Better safe than sorry

Several residents have gone back to their homes on Sunday, January 26, as state volcanologists lowered Taal Volcano's status to Alert Level 3.

But many Batangueños opted to stay at evacuation centers, fearing that the alert level might be raised again to 4.

Marivic Cuarto, 48, said they would rather not return to their house in Kawit, Taal, given the threat. She said that they didn't own a vehicle to rush back to evacuation centers should the inevitable happen.

"Kaya kami nagpilit na na'ndito pa po, ano po, may bata pong maliit. May bago pa akong [apo] doon na 6 days pa lang ngayon. Eh papano po kung biglang nag-ano uli, eh di hindi kami makatakbo?" Cuarto said, holding her 8-month-old grandson.

(We're staying here because my grandchildren are still small. I have another grandchild there who is only 6 days old. What if Taal Volcano erupts again, how can we flee?)

She added that she would rather not bring her grandchildren home, given the health risks of volcanic ash.

"No'ng pumunta dito ay punong-puno ng lupa ang mata n'ya. Eh di siyempre nakakaawa naman. Eh makikipagsapalaran pa?" Cuarto said. (When we came here, my granchild's eyes caught ash. I pitied him. Why would be take the risk?)

Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12, with the alert level rapidly escalating from 2 to 4 within hours. It was on Alert Level 4 for more than two weeks, before the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology lowered it to 3.

Despite a lower alert level, Phivolcs has cautioned that now is not yet the time to relax, as the Taal unrest is still far from over. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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