MANILA -- Residents of two Batangas towns with shores facing the Taal Volcano lake now have the "option" to return to their homes, taking hazards into "serious consideration," the provincial government said Monday.
Agoncillo and Laurel were the only two towns where evacuees were not allowed to return when the volcano alert was lowered one notch to 3 from 4 on Sunday.
On Monday, residents of the 2 towns can return to their homes, except for 6 villages inside the 7-kilometer danger zone: Bilibinwang, Subic Ilaya and Banyaga in Agoncillo; and Gulod, Buso-Buso and Bugaan East in Laurel, the Batangas public information office said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Five villages on volcano island remained on "permanent lockdown," the office said: Tabla and San Isidro in Talisay; Calawit in Balete; and Alas-as and Pulang Bato in San Nicolas, according to the statement.
Some 137,000 people were still in evacuation centers as of 6 a.m. Monday, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Taal began spewing clouds of ash and sulfur on Jan. 12 that reached the capital, forced the cancellation of more than 600 flights, and wrought some P3.35 billion in damage to agriculture and infrastructure, the NDRRMC said.