MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Southern Tagalog region or Calabarzon under a state of calamity due to the Taal Volcano eruption in early February.
Duterte said the declaration would hasten relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by the eruption. Proclamation No. 906, signed on Feb. 21, was made public on Thursday.
The state of calamity covers the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon. With the declaration, an automatic price freeze on basic goods takes effect as provided under the Price Act.
“This declaration, will, among others, afford the National Government, as well as local government units, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds for the rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation of, and to continue to provide basic services for affected populations, in accordance with the law,” the President said.
Duterte said the declaration was recommended by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council given that a total of 483,389 people were affected by the volcanic eruption.
Under the President’s order, all departments and government agencies in affected areas were directed to augment basic services and facilities. The military was tasked to support law enforcers.
While the proclamation was made more than a month since the eruption occurred, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said: "You can never be too late in any declaration with respect to calamities."
"'Pag calamity, ang tagal noon (that lasts long), you cannot be late,” he told reporters in Malacañang.
The state of calamity will remain in effect for 1 year or unless the President lifts it sooner according to the written proclamation.
The alert level on Taal Volcano remains at Level, the second lowest, reflecting "decreased unrest" since it belched hot steam and ash on Jan. 12 and 13.
Set in the center of a lake 60 kilometers south of the capital, Taal left some P3.4 billion worth of damage in agriculture and infrastructure following its eruption, said the disaster agency.
On early Thursday, state seismologists reported Taal’s moderate steaming caused by rising magma under the volcano.