By Aaron Recuenco
BATANGAS CITY— Local chief executives, from mayors down to the barangay level, will be held accountable if any of their constituents would be trapped in the danger zones in their respective areas of jurisdiction, and eventually harmed in case of hazardous eruption of the Taal Volcano, an official of the Batangas Provincial Government sternly warned on Tuesday.
Joselito Castro, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said there is an existing order for the 14 kilometer radius of the volcano and any casualty in case eruption occurs would fall under the responsibility of the local officials.
“We will use the order from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) as the legal basis in running after them,” Castro told the Manila Bulletin in an interview here.
The DILG order mandates forced evacuation within the declared danger zones and the maintenance of zero-people policy inside.
In the past days since a lull in the activity of Taal Volcano, the PDRMMO has been receiving reports of local residents returning to their homes and even outsiders roaming around the areas declared as danger zones.
Reports were also received about local residents still engaged in fishing activities and in some cases, residents sneaking into the Volcano Island.
This was further aggravated when the vice mayor of Talisay town of Batangas was quoted criticizing the scientific data of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and questioning the DILG order.
Talisay Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan’s statement that Phivolcs officials are not God to predict volcano eruption is already going viral in the social media. Natanauan is appealing for his constituents to go back to their homes.
But Castro explained that as local officials, they have the responsibility and obligation to ensure the safety of their constituents in times of disasters.
Local officials, he said, are also mandated to follow the order of the DILG.
The danger posed by Taal Volcano eruption is the reason why mandatory evacuation is being done, according to Castro.
As of Tuesday morning, there are 143,866 people from 38,835 families who are reported to be staying in various evacuation centers. More than 12,000 families, on the other hand, opted to stay with their relatives in non-affected areas of the province and other areas that include Metro Manila.
NO WINDOW HOURS
Castro also voiced out concern on the window hours being implemented by some local officials wherein residents are allowed to go back to their homes located within the danger zones.
The official said the advisory of the PHIVOLCS is very clear, that Taal Volcano is under Alert Level 4 which means imminent eruption is possible anytime.
“Taal Volcano will certainly not follow those window hours. What if the hazardous eruption occur during that window hours?,” said Castro.
Castro said that there are already discussions to ban the implementation of the window hours in order to discourage local residents from going back.
Earlier, Castro declared that no rescue operation will be conducted for any person who would be trapped inside the danger zone in case of hazardous eruption.