MANILA - Government officials on Tuesday defended the state seismology institute after the vice-mayor of Talisay, Batangas criticized chief seismologist Renato Solidum for saying that Taal Volcano could still erupt at any time.
Talisay Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan earlier told radio DZMM Solidum's warning about Taal's activity "was just an opinion", adding that he does not believe the volcano would erupt any time soon.
"Wala pang nakapag predict sa buong mundo kahit scientist sa pagputok ng bulkan. Bakit naman nasabi niya, siya ba ay Diyos?" he asked.
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.
A spokesman of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said the DILG bases all its decisions on the recommendations of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
"Sila po ang dalubhasa dyan. Sila po ang mga eksperto. Sila po ang nagbigay sa atin ng mga hazard maps. Sila po ang nag-aral ng posible na maging galaw ng bulkan base sa nakaraan at kanilang scientific instruments," DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya said.
(They are the experts. They gave us the hazard maps. They study the possible movement of the volcano based on history and using scientific instruments.)
Malaya noted that Talisay's mayor was the first to declare a lockdown after Taal's ash eruption last January 12.
"Si Mayor naman po fully cooperative sa atin sa DILG. Ang Talisay po ang unang nagdeklara ng lockdown, so sa tingin ko po kailangan nating paliwanagan at kausapin," he said.
He added he would get in touch with the DILG's regional director in the area to talk to the vice-mayor.
"Nakakalungkot nga po nung mabalitaan namin ang statement ng ating vice mayor na hindi po siya naniniwala," he said.
Ricardo Jalad, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, shared the same views as Malaya.
"Siguro kailangang ma-educate siya, pakinggan niya ang assessment ng Phivolcs at [backed]-up naman ng science," Jalad said.
Talisay is one of the towns currently on lockdown after it was identified as susceptible to ballistic projectiles, base surges and volcanic tsunami in case of a major eruption.
In his interview, Natanauan said he will ask President Duterte to allow his constituents to go back to their homes despite the danger of a volcanic eruption. Duterte earlier said he was “very satisfied” with government’s response to the rumbling Taal Volcano as he noted that no fatalities have been recorded since the eruption began.
"Hindi po natin puwedeng payagan hanggang ngayon 'yung sinasabing pabalikin na sa kanilang bayan dahil nga po mahigpit ang rekomendasyon ng Phivolcs sa atin at sumusunod po tayo doon sa naging batayan na ibinigay ng Phivolcs," Malaya said.