Residents of Batangas towns on lockdown except Agoncillo, Laurel may return home
MANILA, Philippines — Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas announced Sunday that residents of areas on lockdown except Agoncillo and Laurel now have the choice to return to their homes.
Taal Volcano Island, meanwhile, has been placed on permanent lockdown, Mandanas said.
This was after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) lowered the status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 which means there is “decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.”
“Considering the latest advisory of Phivolcs released today, January 26, that the Alert Level has been lowered from 4 to 3, residents of all towns under lockdown except Agoncillo and Laurel now have the option to return to their respective residences or place of work,” Mandanas said in a press briefing.
Mandanas said areas that are now open to residents are Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas ng Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay and Tanauan City.
Cheers and applause at the Batangas command center welcomed the news as Paolo Reniva, a resident volcanologist, read out the Phivolcs 8 a.m. bulletin.
Twelve towns and two cities, closest to the Taal Lake and volcano and within the 14-km radius at risk of a base surge, were placed under a total lockdown, with close to a million residents evacuated since Taal’s phreatic eruption last Jan. 12.
During a briefing on Sunday, a representative from Laurel municipal government raised concerns as to why the lockdown has not been lifted in Laurel and asked if it were possible to grant residents window hours to visit their homes.
“Why Laurel? Because we have a map drawn up by Phivolcs that shows Laurel (same as Agoncillo) is inside the 7-km (hazard zone),” Mandanas said.
He said they shall decide on it again later this Sunday based on Phivolcs bulletins to be issued at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“(People in other towns) may decide if they wanted to return (to their homes). I would like to give emphasis the decision is theirs,” Mandanas said in Filipino.
Mandanas also said that the Taal Volcano island shall remain off limits.
Army Brig. Gen. Kit Teofilo, head of the Task Force Taal, said soldiers and police were deployed to the area to assist residents returning to their houses and make sure it is done orderly.
Mandanas recommended that returning residents be “constantly alert” to evacuate within one hour should the Alert Level be raised again to Level 4.
Phivolcs earlier recommended that entry into Taal Volcano island or Taal’s Permanent Danger Zone and areas over Taal Lake within the seven-kilometer radius from the Main Crater must be strictly prohibited.
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