By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Madelaine Miraflor
President Duterte has approved the recommendation to give housing units intended for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Southern Tagalog to families displaced by the eruption of Taal Volcano.
According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the President agreed during the 46th Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, to give all 5,448 housing units allotted by the National Housing Authority (NHA) for government forces in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, and Quezon to the displaced families.
“The President approved the request of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to offer these housing units as a grant to the displaced families instead and commended such act of generosity,” Panelo said in a statement Wednesday.
According to Del Rosario, around 6,000 households were affected by the forced evacuation from the seven-kilometer radius of the volcano with the island of Taal itself housing 2,000 families.
The Philippine government is now allowing the resumption of fish feeding in Taal Lake days after some operators appealed to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the local government unit (LGU) of Batangas to give them sufficient “window hours” in harvesting thousands of tons of fish still in their cages.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said based on tests conducted by the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) from January 14 to 30, 2020, the level of dissolved oxygen in Taal Lake, which is essential to fish growth and survival, has already improved.
Taal water quality tests also showed that the sulfide level is within normal, according to BFAR Region 4-A Director Sammy Malvas.
He added that the BFAR tests showed the sulfur content of tilapia samples from Taal Lake compared with those from the National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center, in Munoz, Nueva Ecija.
This indicates that despite Taal’s eruption, ash and sulfur have minimal effect on the fish.
However, he still recommends fish cage owners not to overfeed the fish (commonly tilapia and bangus) to avoid accumulation of ammonia in the waters of Taal lake.
Malvas said the DA-BFAR will continue to conduct water quality monitoring and ensure that fish cage operators are properly advised and provided needed technical assistance.
The Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance, Inc. (TLAAI) said that about 70 percent of their fish cages survived and are still floating despite Taal volcano’s destructive eruption.
Before Taal’s eruption, the group said daily harvest from Taal lake ranges from 120 to 150 tons of bangus (milkfish) and tilapia. Total fish production from the 6,000 cages of TLLAI members reaches more than 50,000 tons each year.
Of this volume, about 60 percent is consumed in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon. The remaining 40 percent is sent to Metro Manila and sold through the PFDA Fish-port Complex in Navotas City.
Aside from requesting “window hours” for qualified and capable personnel to feed, nurture, and undertake emergency cage repairs within the seven kilometer danger zone, the group also requested the setting up of a mobile office of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and other local government units for the issuance of Auxiliary Invoice and Local Transport Permits. This will facilitate quick and efficient fish harvest, they said.