Phivolcs to Talisay vice mayor: We are firm in our science

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 12:29 PM

Fishermen make their way back to the shore after checking upon their fish farms in Taal lake, Talisay town, Batangas on Jan. 13, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Tuesday said they understand the concerns of local government units in high-risk areas of Taal Volcano. However, the will not change their opinion on the dangers of an imminent explosive eruption.

Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division head Mariton Bornas said this a day after Talisay, Batangas Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan lambasted the agency for supposedly alarming the public with its volcano warnings. Natanauan questioned the Phivolcs’ ability to predict an eruption and said his constituents should be allowed to return to their houses.

Talisay is within the high-risk areas of Taal Volcano, which means hazards like base surges and volcanic tsunamis can devastate its communities. With Taal Volcano on Alert Level 4, high-risk areas were evacuated in anticipation of a possible explosive eruption.

“We can understand that he (Natanauan) is under so much stress. We would like to respect the feelings of the Vice Mayor but at the same time we are firm in our science,” Bornas said.

Bornas said Phivolcs personnel like her have spent considerable time in Batangas doing field work in Taal so they have a connection with the people.

“We are working doubly hard so we can give them the best information,” she assured the public.

“We will be the first one to say it is safe to go back. Because we have them in mind all the time,” she added. “We know the plight of being displaced, especially those who are in evacuation centers.”

Bornas said they have long been preparing the province for the possible eruption of Taal Volcano, which has been on Alert Level 1 since March last year because of volcanic earthquakes.

“And now that it has happened, hopefully people have learned their lessons,” she said, referring to the steam-driven eruptions of Taal starting January 12.

While volcanic activity on the surface has seemingly weakened, Bornas explained that magma is still moving underground and there is still a threat of eruption.

Bornas has repeatedly insisted that it will be up to the local government units to implement their evacuation plans but for those within the high-risk areas, they recommend evacuation.

“We should avoid high-risk areas because there is still the danger that the volcano will have a major eruption,” she said. “There is little lead time for us to evacuate.”

Natanauan earlier claimed that base surges would not reach lakeshore towns like Talisay because it will have to go through a lake. But Bornas and Solidum have repeatedly explained that base surges or blasts of hot gas, ash and volcanic debris can cross or float on water as it did in the past. It is also subsonic in speed, which means the blasts will be impossible to outrun. Many lakeshore towns around Taal Volcano were devastated during the past eruptions, killing people and prompting communities to relocate.