Año said the areas surrounding Taal Volcano have been locked down due to the threat of an imminent eruption, and allowing residents to return even for just a few hours puts their lives at risk.
Geremy Pintolo/ File
DILG stops lockdown window hours
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Evacuees will no longer be given “window hours” to make brief visits to their abandoned houses within the 14-kilometer danger zone of Taal Volcano, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said yesterday.

Año said the areas surrounding Taal Volcano have been locked down due to the threat of an imminent eruption, and allowing residents to return even for just a few hours puts their lives at risk.

He instructed local government units to immediately stop the implementation of window hours in the 12 towns and two cities in Batangas that have been evacuated.

“Yes, let’s stop that. I don’t see the logic of giving four hours when in fact we don’t even know when it will erupt and in a matter of minutes everybody will die,” Año told reporters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Local authorities had given evacuees a window ranging from two to four hours to return to their houses within the danger zone to save their livestock, belongings or properties.

Año said that while he understands the plight of displaced residents, government’s primary concern is their safety. “This time we will be very strict,” Año said about implementing the lockdown.

Speaking to The STAR, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said he stands firm on the implementation of the lockdown, but yields to mayors in deciding window hours for their constituents to visit their houses.

“From the start I’m for the implementation of a total lockdown on all gravely affected areas,” he said. “Now, if the mayors allow them then it’s their responsibility.”

He said as governor, he knows the situation in Batangas better than the national government, and mayors also know the situation on the ground better than the governor.

Asked if such a policy would cause a misunderstanding with police and military forces ordered to keep the danger zone off limits to all residents, Mandanas said, “No.”

“There will be no misunderstanding here. The police on the ground are under the supervision of the mayors, therefore, they should follow whatever the mayors order them to do. They (mayors) should know what is best for the safety of their constituents,” he explained.

The governor said “there are always exemptions” to the rule. He admitted that he, too, asked permission from the mayor of Taal to allow his cousin to be buried in the municipal cemetery while the volcano was under Alert Level 4.

Mandanas also cited as an example his order to allow workers of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to clean their power lines of dust and debris. 

“I gave NGCP my permission, because it services 60 percent of the power supply of Luzon,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) reported that there have been no reported deaths and looting in the affected areas since the crisis started last Jan. 12.

Año attributed this to the security efforts of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and other government agencies. with Arnell Ozaeta

14-KILOMETER DANGER ZONE TAAL VOLCANO
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