By Martin Sadongdong
Thousands of displaced residents in Batangas province have received relief aid from the Philippine Navy (PN) as part of the military’s sustained humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) efforts in San Luis town amid the ongoing unrest of Taal volcano.
Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad led the turnover of some 4,000 relief packs worth P700,000 in total to the Municipality Social Welfare Development (MSWD) of San Luis, Batangas. The event, held on Sunday, was witnessed by town mayor Danilo Medina and top MSWD and parish officials.
The relief packs — each containing a pail, a kilo of rice, assorted canned goods and food packs, bottled water, and a personal hygiene kit — were distributed to three evacuation sites in Barangays Poblacion, Taliba, and Calumpang West.
In addition, 2,500 relief packs and 150 mattresses were distributed to the victims by the “Tulong Taal” team which includes the partner-teams of the Navy.
Empedrad, who is set to retire in the first week of February, expressed sympathy to the victims of Taal’s eruption. “I want to ensure that before I move from my office, our diligent efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Taal victims will be delivered as needed by our people.”
Meanwhile, Philippine Air Force personnel from the 355th Aviation Air Engineering Wing assisted thousands of residents who returned to their houses as the alert level of Taal volcano was downgraded from Level 4 to Level 3.
The 355th Aviation Air Engineering Wing earlier turned over newly-constructed temporary sanitation facilities to the local government unit of Santo Tomas, Batangas for the use of evacuees.
Air Force Commanding General Maj. Gen. Allen Paredes said the deployment of the team and the provision of the temporary sanitation facilities marked the completion of the tasking of Joint Task Group (JTG) “Taal” to the Air Force to help the evacuees in their sanitary needs.
The Air Force personnel also helped residents clear streets and communities of thick ash fall and dead animals after Taal’s steam-driven eruption on Jan. 12 buried homes and killed livestock.
Earlier, residents were temporarily allowed to go back to their homes as the alert level of Taal was downgraded by the Philippine Institue of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
However, JTG Taal commander Brig. Gen. Marciliano Teofilo confirmed that at least 11 villages in Batangas remain off-limits to residents becausethey are located within the seven-km radius danger zone.
These areas are Barangays Banyaga and Bilibinwang in Agoncillo town; Bugaan East, Buso-Buso, and Gulod in Laurel town; Buco, Sitio Tabla, San Isidro, of Poblacion 6 in Talisay town; Calawit in Balete town; and Alas-as and Pulang-Bato in San Nicolas town.