No delay in warning on Taal Volcano eruption - Phivolcs

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2020 06:02 PM

Fishermen attempt to catch fish a day after the Taal volcano erupted in Talisay, Batangas on January 13, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- Phivolcs on Wednesday belied claims that its warnings about Taal Volcano’s eruption came too late.

This, after a lawmaker urged the House of Representatives to investigate the supposed lack of government alerts before the eruption.

But Phivolcs officials said they prioritized communicating with communities on Taal Volcano Island as soon as they noticed the escalation of volcanic activity, which only happened on Sunday afternoon.

“There was no delay,” Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief Mariton Bornas told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday morning. 

“At 11 in the morning (on Sunday), those in the island were already relaying to us their observations.”

“They were given advice in case they needed to evacuate,” she said. “We had direct communication with them on the grassroots level.”

In fact, many already evacuated, she added. 

“There are 6,000 people on the island. Nobody was injured, no one died,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said. “It’s amazing. We should thank God nothing happened.”

Solidum said Phivolcs was coordinating with volcano island communities before the eruption. If the agency wasn't, many could have died, like what happened during Taal's 1911 eruption. 

A total of 1,335 people from towns surrounding the volcano died during that eruption, Phivolcs data showed. 

Solidum later explained that even before they released the public bulletin raising the alert level at the volcano from 1 to 2, they first informed affected communities and other government agencies.

He said those who were surprised with Taal Volcano’s phreatic or steam-driven eruption on Sunday afternoon were the ones who were not monitoring the situation at all.

Taal Volcano has been on Alert Level 1 since March 2019 because of monitored volcanic earthquakes.

After the press conference, Solidum showed media the volcano monitoring station of Phivolcs. He explained graphs that showed how activity such as earthquakes or the tilt of the volcano suddenly escalated after 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

It took only five hours for the alert level to be raised from 2 to 3, and then 4, the second highest in the scale, which warns of a hazardous eruption in the next hours or days. 

Bornas, an expert on the Taal Volcano, said they did not monitor any change in the temperature of acidity of the lake before Sunday afternoon.