The volcanic island is part of the 14-kilometer danger zone declared after Taal Volcano exploded on Sunday afternoon, displacing thousands of people.
Bullit Marquez/AFP
Duterte declares Taal island ‘no man’s land’
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte declared Taal Volcano island a “no man’s land” last night following the recommendation of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.

The volcanic island is part of the 14-kilometer danger zone declared after Taal Volcano exploded on Sunday afternoon, displacing thousands of people.

“Nobody is allowed to go back until such time that it is safe,” Duterte said in a speech before evacuees at the Batangas City Sports Complex last night.

Prior to this, Dela Peña recommended the total evacuation of people in the affected areas and enforcement of a “no human settlement policy on Taal island.” He called for “preparation against heavy and prolonged ashfall” and the possible collapse of infrastructure.

“They’re just following the recommendations and they are all approved… I approved it because it is good for the people,” the President said.

The science and technology chief outlined his recommendations to the President during last night’s situational briefing by members of the Cabinet and key agencies of the government.

“This is an issue of public order and security and an issue of health. So those are... functions of government – to come up with measures to protect public interest, public safety, public health. Then, they have people and sa pagkain naman siguro (perhaps, in terms of food), Gen. Bautista is ready,” Duterte said, referring to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.

The Chief Executive also approved the protocol for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to order the airlines to avoid air space in the path of Taal Volcano.

He also OK’d the immediate need for the national government and local government to “finalize hazard sensitive land use plans” in the region.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed concern that many people might get killed if the government will not implement the “total evacuation” and “no man’s land” policy once the Taal Volcano errupts violently.

“I strongly believe and recommend that we strictly implement the suggestion or recommendation that Taal island will be declared a no man’s land, don’t let the people go back in case there is a more violent explosion, the people there will perish in that island,” Lorenzana said.

Duterte underscored disaster preparedness among government agencies as the core of ensuring less or zero casualties.

“I know that you cannot (make) projections actually … unless there is an activity there which can be seen visually or manifest itself through fumes. But otherwise, like earthquakes…,” the President said.

Duterte had earlier lauded Baustista and other frontline agencies that responded immediately last Sunday.

‘Permanent evacuation centers’

President Duterte yesterday reiterated the need for concerned agencies to build permanent evacuation centers, noting how the Philippines is prone to disasters, including typhoons.

Speaking at the Taal Volcano situation briefing in Batangas City yesterday, Duterte said he wants an evacuation center constructed in disaster-prone provinces, particularly those facing the Pacific Ocean.

“They are the windows of the Philippines whenever there is a boiling body or ocean there…,” he said after lauding various departments for having responded immediately to the eruption of Taal Volcano last Sunday afternoon.

The President appealed to the public and local authorities to remain vigilant against any eventuality.

“This crisis seems to be a continuing one. Whether it will grow into a big explosion or it will simmer down, we have yet to… Let’s see what develops in the days to come. It’s up to… Dr. (Renato) Solidum to make something out of it,” he said.

“But I am happy that we responded well. And we are here, especially the (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and health authorities, because (those are) the (two main) problems really. And, of course, the food and people here cannot move. They are even covered with ashes like zombies sa (in the) picture. Kawawa naman (Pitiful),” he added.

Despite the immediate disaster response, the Chief Executive said he was sorry he was not in Manila when the incident happened – he was in Davao over the weekend and returned first thing on Monday morning to get an assessment of the situation.

During the yesterday’s briefing, Duterte ordered Human Settlements Secretary Eduardo del Rosario to speed up the construction of evacuation centers to provide better shelters for evacuees during emergencies.

“You build a very strong evacuation center… Not as strong as the Titanic, even saying that even God can’t sink this ship, because He will sink it,” the President said, adding that an evacuation center that can withstand even the strongest typhoons would be enough.

Duterte also directed Del Rosario to provide separate toilets and shower rooms for women, men and children.

“When you build comfort rooms, (make it) separate rooms for the women, children and men,” he said.

“Do not place the toilets in the same (area)… Well, the woman kinetic movement… So the toilet should be different for bathing and for everything that we do, different for peeing and pooing,” the President said.

During the same briefing, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana informed Duterte that there is a model for evacuation centers, including one in Tuguegerao.

The President also advised members of his Cabinet to prioritize projects that can be done within his term, which ends in 2022.

“Do not start on projects which you cannot finish beyond my term.  I want projects that can be finished within my term,” he said, explaining that is the reason why he did not accept proposals to rehabilitate EDSA.

Duterte again referred to the objection of critics who opposed his request for special powers for construction of infrastructure that would help alleviate the traffic congestion along one of Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares.

He said he does not want to get flak for unfinished projects once he ends his term.

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