Who was prepared for the Taal Volcano emergency? Cavite

Published 8:30 AM, January 24, 2020
Updated 9:37 AM, February 07, 2020

In the frenzy since Taal Volcano in Batangas started erupting more than a week ago, you’ve probably heard little news about Cavite, my home province.

Batangas’ neighboring province to the north was mentioned as an aside in most reports:

Away from blow-by-blow updates on social media, Cavite was in fact a story of quick, coordinated response to this unforeseen disaster. And the reason is, during days of calm, the province’s medical, social services, environmental, and emergency response teams do their work as if on a drill.

CAVITE Provincial Veterinary Office staff and volunteers on January 18, 2020, rescue and treat animals affected by the Taal Volcano eruption. Photo courtesy of Cavite PIO

CAVITE Provincial Veterinary Office staff and volunteers on January 18, 2020, rescue and treat animals affected by the Taal Volcano eruption. Photo courtesy of Cavite PIO

They do the rounds regularly – “Bumababa talaga sila. Kilala nila ang communities, alam nila ang kailangan doon,” a local who had worked with social workers told me. (They go down to the communities. They know the people there, they know what their needs are.)

In past disasters, a provincial government employee said, these people would come to the capitol at 4 am, sometimes even earlier, every day until the situation returned to normal.

A municipal official told me that Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla had been strict about local government units having well-equipped evacuation centers in strategic clusters of barangays that could be instantly activated when disaster strikes.

So when Batangas was in distress – and it was inevitable that those fleeing their homes would spill into Cavite (and Laguna) – Cavite was prepared to respond.

On January 15, the provincial board passed a resolution placing Cavite under a state of calamity. It also authorized Governor Remulla to accept, on behalf of the province, donations for the Taal survivors.

There was “very little damage to property...outside of the ashfall,” Governor Remulla told Rappler, but the declaration was needed so they could allocate P15 million to help the evacuees from Batangas.

When he spoke to us that day – 3 days into Taal Volcano’s continuing eruption – there were only about 15,000 evacuees from Batangas, only Alfonso and Tagaytay had taken in evacuees, and Dasmarinas City was to open its evacuation centers the following day. (WATCH: Taal Volcano evacuees arrive in Dasmariñas, Cavite)

Since then, the number of evacuees has more than tripled. As I write this, Wednesday afternoon, January 22, there are at least 12,617 families or 47,737 individuals from Batangas who have taken shelter in evacuation centers and foster homes in Cavite. All 23 municipalities and cities of Cavite are now hosting evacuees.

EVACUEES from Batangas, initially accommodated in Alfonso town, are transferred to Dasmariñas City. Rappler screenshot

EVACUEES from Batangas, initially accommodated in Alfonso town, are transferred to Dasmariñas City. Rappler screenshot

So far, Cavite Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Louie Rozul told me:

  • The operation center of the disaster response office is on alert status.
  • The Incident Command Center has been activated.
  • Doctors and dentists are checking up the evacuees.
  • Nutritionists are doing rapid health analysis.
  • Mental health doctors are giving psychological services.
  • Veterinarians and volunteers have rescued and treated horses and other animals.
  • Data on evacuees are being processed for disaggregation so these can aid local and national government workers in determining the most appropriate interventions.
  • Mayors and the provincial government are in tight coordination.

Thirty-four years ago, when the ticket of Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel was campaigning in our province for the 1986 snap elections, Doy the vice presidential candidate had an interesting way of telling us Caviteños how closely knit our province was with his Batangas: “Tayo naman sa Cavite at Batangas eh naghihilahang-kalabaw lang.”

Literally, it translated to, “We in Cavite and Batangas would exchange carabaos.” It was a figure of speech for residents of the two provinces inter-marrying, therefore exchanging carabaos for dowry.

With a big explosion still “imminent,” according to volcanologists, threatening Batangas more than any other province in Southern Tagalog, Cavite is pulling all stops to help its “family.” – Rappler.com

Until next week! Email me your thoughts at miriamgracego@rappler.com. If you want to help Rappler pursue in-depth reports on specific sectors and issues, you can donate to our investigative fund here. You can check out the conversations I engage in on Twitter @miriamgracego and follow the stories I share on Facebook.




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