MANILA — The mayor of Talisay, Batangas apologized Wednesday in behalf of his second-in-command and brother, who questioned the mandatory evacuation of residents from Taal Volcano, which remained under threat of another hazardous eruption.
Talisay Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan earlier appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to allow his constituents to return home after the volcano belched a giant ash cloud last Jan. 12. Natanauan also urged chief seismologist Renato Solidum to change his "opinion" on the volcano's threat.
"Ako po'y nahingi ng paumanhin doon. Taliwas po sa aking ipinapatupad na lockdown ang kaniyang panawagan," said Talisay Mayor Gerry Natanauan.
"Hindi ko po alam kung bakit siya'y nagkakaganoon," he added.
(I apologize for that. His statement is against the lockdown that I am implementing. I don't know why he did that.)
Taal's eruption displaced nearly 149,000 people and damaged at least P3.2 billion worth of crops and livestock, authorities said.
The Talisay government also wants to move to safer ground a handful of residents who insist on staying inside the 14-kilometer danger zone around the volcano to keep watch over their farm animals.
"Hindi naman po puwedeng kaladkarin ang mga tao, baka tayo'y ma-human rights," said Mayor Natanauan, quoting police opinion.
(We can't drag the people away, we might face a human rights complaint.)
The provincial government Tuesday banned "window hours" that previously allowed evacuees to check on their homes.
"Walang window hours; total lockdown... Sa lahat po ng bayan, walang exception," said Batangas police chief Col. Edwin Quilates.
(There no window hours anymore; we are implementing a total lockdown. This covers all towns, no exceptions.)
The volcano remains under Alert Level 4, the second-highest in a 5-step warning system, meaning a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days," the state seismology institute said.
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