As Taal Volcano is still on Alert Level 4, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today said that the government is on top of the situation with zero casualties and zero looting since January 12 when the volcano first had a phreatic eruption.
“The local government units along with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and other government agencies have proven their competence and showed resilience. They have acted decisively to meet the disaster head-on resulting in zero-casualty, zero-looting, and the fact that all residents are safe in evacuation centers.” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año during the presscon Monday morning.
Año said the government's response has been immediate and significant in spite of the suddenness of the eruption primarily because of the prompt evacuation system of local government units (LGUs) and the cooperation of those who were directly affected by the disaster.
“We are pleased to inform you that 100 percent of all 142 local chief executives in Regions III, IVA, IVB, and NCR are present in their respective LGUs and have activated their disaster-preparedness protocols,” he said.
According to the DILG Secretary, the Department has been doing round-the-clock monitoring of affected LGUs to assess their conditions and report their actions or inactions, especially on the mandatory evacuation of all barangays in high-risk areas identified by PHIVOLCS.
“Based on our latest report, 98% of the residents in the barangays located within the 14-km high risk danger zone have been fully evacuated and the rest are undergoing evacuation,” he said.
Año said he also supports the decision by LGUs to declare a lockdown on the concerned barangays. “We appeal to our people to heed the instructions of local disaster officials due to the continuous risk posed by Taal Volcano to all residents,” he said.
PNP and BFP mobilized
The DILG Secretary said a total of 2,820 search and rescue personnel from the PNP National Headquarters and different regional units have been deployed to Batangas and Cavite.
He said 10,240 PNP personnel are also ready to be mobilized in case the situation worsens.
He said the PNP has also created a perimeter task force and set up checkpoints in all entry points to enforce the lockdown imposed by LGUs.
A PNP special anti-looting task force has also been mobilized to the danger zones to ensure that the properties of the evacuees are safe and secure and to prevent looting.
Meanwhile, a total of 975 BFP personnel composed of firefighters, Special Rescue Units (SRUs) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have been deployed to the CALABARZON areas with 191 firetrucks, 3 Hazmat trucks, 11 ambulances, and other BFP resources.
They have conducted 130 flushing operations and helped evacuate 25,867 families in 628 barangays. They have completed 676 relief distributions and other forms of public service like road clearing and water rationing.
“Masasabi nating sulit ang pagtaas ng suweldo ng mga uniformed personnel sapagkat itinataya nila ang sarili nilang kaligtasan at kinabukasan ng kanilang mga pamilya sa pagtupad sa kanilang mga tungkulin, lalo na sa panahon ng kalamidad,” Año said.
Ready for the worst
While the DILG as the Vice-Chair for Disaster Preparedness of NDRRMC focuses on early and critical preparedness, Año said the Department is prepared to mobilize all its resources and units to assist in search and rescue, peace and order, management of the missing, and early recovery efforts.
“We will work closely in support of the Response Clusters such as the Department of Health in the event of an explosive eruption of Taal Volcano,” he said.
“With disaster response mechanisms already in place, wala pong dapat ipangamba ang ating mga kababayan. We fear the worst to happen, but our collective efforts to support and help one another will enable us to withstand the crisis. The Bayanihan Spirit, or brotherhood, will triumph in the end."
He also appealed to the people in evacuation centers to cooperate with local authorities, practice discipline and help ensure that their temporary shelters are clean and orderly.
“Umaapela rin po kami sa ating mga kababayan na magkaroon ng sistema at disiplina sa pagpapanatili ng kaayusan at kalinisan sa mga evacuation centers,” he said.
“Ituring natin itong sarili nating tahanan at pamayanan kung saan dapat kayong magtulungan at magkaisa sa paglilinis upang maging komportable at maayos ang inyong pananatili dito. Disiplina Muna ang ating pairalin,” he added.