MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to "lighten the mood" when he joked he would cover Taal volcano, which erupted last week sending thousands of people to evacuation centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said on Monday, following criticism of the leader's remark.
Taal on Thursday spewed a 1-kilometer high plume of gas and steam, prompting authorities to raise its alert status to Level 3 in a 5-level scale. On the same day, Duterte said of the volcano, "Siguro lagyan ko lang ng cap, yung butas."
(Perhaps I will just put a cap on the crater.)
"The President, of course, was trying to lighten the mood dahil ano ba naman ‘yan, may pandemya na nga, may pagputok pa ng bulkang Taal," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"That’s the President’s style."
"Kung talagang mag-iisip kayo ng masama, eh sa mula't mula, talagang ganyan na kayo mag-isip, ipagpatuloy n'yo na. Anyway, matatapos na naman ang termino ng Presidente. Kung liligaya po ang mga taong 'yan, pabayaan n'yo na sila," he said in a press briefing.
(The President, of course, was trying to lighten the mood because there is already a pandemic, and now, Taal volcano is erupting... If you'll think badly about it, just continue to do so because from the start, that's what you have been doing. Anyway, the President's term will end. If people will be happy with that, let them be.)
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said last week that poking fun over the recent Taal unrest "is not funny", given that "people are panicking and serious evacuation work is ongoing in some Cavite and Batangas municipalities."
"Dapat 'yon, may assurance na 'wag kayong mag-alala dahil ang gobyerno nandyan para tulungan kayo kung ano man mangyari sa Taal. To make light of the situation there, parang hindi nararapat na manggaling sa bibig ng isang pangulo," he said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
(There should be an assurance coming from the government that it is here to help them whatever happens in Taal. To make light of the situation there is not right, especially coming from the mouth of a president.)
Taal volcano's current alert status means a "magmatic intrusion" at the main crater "could further drive succeeding eruptions".
Taal is one of the world's smallest active volcanoes. Despite standing at only 311 meters, it can be deadly and an eruption in 1911 killed more than 1,300 people.
In January last year, Taal shot a column of ash and steam as high as 15 kilometers into the sky, which forced more than 100,000 people to abandon their homes, widespread flight cancellations and heavy ash falls in Manila.
At that time, Duterte said he would visit affected areas, eat toxic volcanic ash, and pee on Taal.
The towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, situated on the lake surrounding the Taal volcano, were in danger from eruption and volcanic tsunami, the seismology agency said.
The national disaster bureau warned of eruption-related quakes.
The evacuation of Agoncillo promptly started, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas had said, with at least 3,523 families or 14,495 people to be moved to safe areas.
— With a report from Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters