Phivolcs open to House probe on Taal watch, denies lack of info

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2020 07:49 AM | Updated as of Jan 16 2020 10:31 AM

A member of the MMDA K9 Corps search for animals to be rescued in Taal Island Volcano on Jan. 14, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Wednesday said it was "okay" with facing a legislative inquiry into its monitoring of Taal Volcano, saying the agency's alerts prompted the evacuation of thousands to safer ground. 

Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. is urging fellow lawmakers to investigate Phivolcs' monitoring of Taal, claiming that "lack of information" from the agency endangered many residents when the volcano belched a giant ash cloud on Sunday. 

"Okay lang po iyon kung gusto nilang magtanong. Pero ito po iyong katotohanan: matagal na po tayong may koordinasyon sa Batangas province na sila po talaga ang inihahanda natin sa pagsabog ng Taal Volcano," Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum told radio DZMM. 

(It's okay if they want to ask questions. But this is the truth: we have long had coordination with the Batangas province to prepare them for the eruption of Taal Volcano.) 

"Kaya nga po na-evacuate ang mga tao sa isla, madalas po silang tumututok sa information na ibinibigay ng DOST-Phivolcs at mga kasamahan nating nakadestino sa Taal," he added. 

(People evacuated from the Taal island because they monitor information from the Phivolcs and our colleagues assigned to the area.) 

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Phivolcs had released daily advisories since March 2019, when it placed Taal under alert 1 after it showed increased volcanic activity, said Solidum.

The agency, he added, had urged education officials to relocate students from areas near the volcano as early as November last year. 

"Hindi po iyan zero na walang warning," Solidum said. 

(It was not as if we gave zero warning.) 

The ash from Taal reached Metro Manila over the weekend, shuttering the capital's airport overnight, sending thousands in nearby areas to evacuation centers and forcing the cancellation of classes. 
 
Sitting on the center of a picturesque lake south of the capital, Taal remains under the second highest danger level, which means a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days," said Phivolcs. 

Taal, one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, 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