MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government is seeking guidance from the government's disaster council after local officials defied a DILG order to close businesses in Tagaytay amid the threat of eruption from Taal Volcano.
DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said the order to shut down business establishments in Tagaytay while an imminent hazardous eruption alert is still raised over the Taal Volcano was made "as supervising authority of local chief executives or [local government units]."
He said DILG will seek guidance from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, composed of the heads of the defense, social welfare, health, finance, energy and other government departments, to discuss the matter.
"We would like to elevate this to the higher level for them to decide whether or not to really allow business establishments in that area...At the end of the day it's a collective decision. We want to look at certain perspectives of other members of NDRRMC," he said in an ANC interview.
Tagaytay officials have allowed commercial establishments to reopen despite DILG warnings that the city may experience ashfall anew in the event that the volcano erupts.
Senator Francis Tolentino,a former mayor of Tagaytay, earlier said reopening of business establishments in Tagaytay while an imminent hazardous eruption alert is still raised over the Taal Volcano is "not profiteering."
"Kaya nagbukas ang ibang mga hotels, mababa nga ang presyo, para ang ibang volunteers makapunta rin doon, para magkatrabaho din ang mga waiters, mga chef na walang trabaho, mga nagsusuplay ng gulay para magkahanapbuhay din," he told Senate reporters.
Cavite Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, Tolentino's brother, said Tagaytay will treat Densing's statement as a "recommendation" and will continue with the resumption of business operations.
Tagaytay—the Tolentino clan's bailiwick and hometown—primarily relies on tourism revenue from 285 restaurants, 64 road-side eateries, and 56 hotels. Weekenders usually flock to the cliff-side city for its famous beef marrow soup (bulalo), pineapples and tawilis.
The DILG has also ordered the forced evacuation and closure of businesses in Bagong Tubig, Kaybagal South (Poblacion), Maharlika West, Sambong, San Jose, Silang Junction South, Maharlika East, and Tolentino East, which are susceptible to base surges and volcanic tsunami if a powerful Taal eruption happens.
Densing said the DILG did not make a mistake in issuing the order mandating the closure of business establishments near Taal volcano's vicinity.
"We sent a letter to Tagaytay City Mayor Tolentino and mentioned there that except for 8 barangays identified within the 14 kilometer danger zone which are considered for mandatory evacuation, the rest of Tagaytay, the elevated area, we give it up to her best judgement and discretion whether or not to allow certain business establishments to open," he said.
Densing said that from Day 1, their directive was to ensure that business establishments in Tagaytay remain closed to prevent tourists and other locals from going to the area since alert level 4, which warns of hazardous explosive eruption in few hours or days, is still up.
"We are dependent on Phivolcs. they are the experts on this. Despite the fact that we're giving the mayor of Tagaytay City the sound judgement or discretion to open, we're still warning the public that it's still alert level 4," he said.
The DILG, he said, instructed the mayor to continue to coordinate with Phivolcs regarding the volcano's activities.
"We have to accept the fact that there are politicians there, the mayor, the congressman. I'm looking at it not from a political view but from the point of view of public safety," he said.