MANILA - Officials have spotted at least 100 live animals on Taal Volcano island 5 days after the volcano belched a giant ash cloud that reached all the way to Northern Luzon.
BGen. Marceliano Teofilo, commander of Task Force Taal, said aerial reconnaissance Friday morning spotted about 100 animals, including horses and cattle, still scattered around the island.
"Hindi naman karamihan kasi these past few days may mga nailikas na rin na mga animals," he said in a radio DZMM interview.
More than 57,000 people have abandoned homes on the volcanic island and its environs, usually thronged by tourists, but many have also drifted back to check on animals and possessions.
Officials earlier said there were at least 3,000 horses living on the island, most earning money for their owners by carrying tourists to the rim of the volcano crater.
Animal owners have urged authorities to allow the rescue of as many animals as possible, taking advantage of what appeared to be a lull in volcano activity, but was rebuffed by the coast guard patrolling the lake.
Retrieval operations by the coast guard and maritime police on the island are ongoing, Teofilo said. "Ang primordial concern natin is the safety ng mga kabab ayan natin," he said.
"Pag sinabing hindi puwede, we have to heed dahil mahirap na...the situation is very volatile. We will take cue from Phivolcs. That's the reason why yung 14 kilometer danger zone ay ipinapatupad kasi until now mahirap ma-predict kung kailan sasabog ulit o hindi," he said.
The head of the state seismology agency also discouraged residents and groups from going back to the island to rescue animals.
"May risk 'yan, talagang nandyan kung magkaroon ng explosion nilalagay ng sinuman na pumupunta doon ang buhay nila sa alanganin," said Renato Solidum, executive director of Phivolcs.
Three members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were stranded on Taal Volcano island Wednesday after they launched a rescue operation for animals amid the volcano's unrest.
Jana Sevilla, spokesperson of PETA, said they were left behind on the island because of miscommunication with the boat captain. The 3 were rescued by Coast Guard personnel.
Sevilla also belied a report that all animals on the volcano island were killed after Sunday's ash explosion.
"Pagdating namin dun mas maraming buhay kesa patay. 'Yun ang nakakapagtaka kasi di ba may lumabas sa balita na patay na lahat, wala nang buhay diyan. We were expecting the worst, pero pagdating namin dun kahapon, sobrang dami pang buhay,"she said.
The Philippines lies on the "Ring of Fire," a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.
One of the world's smallest active volcanoes, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed more than 1,300 people and one in 1754 lasted for six months. With a report by Reuters