Solon seeks probe on Phivolcs alert system, claims 'lack of info' during Taal eruption

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 05:11 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2020 05:13 PM

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MANILA — The House of Representatives should investigate the supposed lack of government alerts on the eruption of Taal Volcano, a lawmaker said Tuesday. 

The appropriate House committee should look into whether or not state seismology institute Phivolcs had sufficient equipment and technical expertise to make a "timely forecast" of Taal's eruption, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said in Resolution 643. 

There were "no news bulletins or SMS alerts from the Phivolcs and other government agencies" when Taal showed increased volcanic activity on Sunday morning, he claimed. 

"Due to lack of information, in the afternoon of the same day... people still traveled towards it, while those who were already near Taal Volcano were shocked to see smoke spewing from it and had to immediately flee under the dangers of ashfall," Barzaga said. 

Sitting on the center of a picturesque lake, Taal on Sunday belched a giant ash column that reached Metro Manila and nearby areas, closed the capital's airport overnight, sent thousands to evacuation centers and forced the cancellation of classes. 

Residents flee their houses in Tagaytay City, a day after Taal volcano erupted, Jan. 13, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Lawmakers, Barzaga said, should also look into the residential settlement surrounding the volcano, which was previously categorized as a permanent danger zone. 

Barzaga also called for charges to be filed against retailers who sold face masks, food and other supplies "at unreasonable price" during the disaster. 

In the capital, some stores ran out of face masks, the retail price of which reportedly jumped eight-fold, the city government earlier said. 

One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past 5 centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months. With a report from Reuters