A man clears ash from the roof of his truck, before a plume of steam rising from the Taal volcano, at a fishing harbour in Laurel on January 17, 2020.
AFP/Ed Jones
Taal updates are backed by science, Phivolcs says amid Talisay vice mayor's doubts
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - January 21, 2020 - 12:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — State volcanologists said they understand the criticisms of a Batangas town vice mayor but stressed that their updates on the erupting Taal Volcano are based on science.

Charlie Natanauan, vice mayor of Talisay town, told radio DZMM Monday that his constituents should be allowed to return home despite warnings from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology that a potentially catastrophic blast is still possible.

Talisay is one of the areas inside the 14-kilometer danger zone.

He also said Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum should change his “opinion” about the restive volcano’s activity.

“Wala pang nakapag-predict sa buong mundo kahit scientist sa pagputok ng bulkan. Bakit naman nasabi niya, siya ba ay Diyos?” the local official said.

(No one—even scientists—has predicted that a volcano will erupt. Why did he say that? Is he God?)

Alert Level 4 remains in effect over Taal, which means a hazardous explosive eruption may still happen within hours to days. State volcanologists said they could not lower alert level “as long as there is possibility.”

Science-backed advisories

Ma. Antonia Bornas, Phivolcs’ volcano monitoring and eruption division chief, said they sympathize with the distressed vice mayor and the affected communities.

“With all due respect to the vice mayor, we can understand that he is under so much stress. We would like to respect ‘yung feelings ni vice mayor (We would like to respect the vice mayor's feelings),” Bornas said Tuesday.

She added: “But at the same time, we are firm in our science. We are doing our best so that we can inform [the public].”

Nearly 39,000 families or over 148,000 individuals have been seeking temporary shelters in evacuation centers since Taal began erupting to life more than a week ago.

“We know, we understand their plight so we are working doubly hard so we can give them the best information. We will be the first one to say if it’s safe to go back, we have them in mind all the time,” Bornas said.

While the eruptions at Taal have weakened, “it doesn’t mean the danger is over.”

Elias Fernandez Jr., DILG Calabarzon officer-in-charge, meanwhile said the department might file a case against Natanauan.

“After all he’s a public official and he’s accountable for his statements,” he was quoted as saying in a DZBB tweet report.

Taal had been on Alert Level 1 since March 2019 because of monitored volcanic earthquakes.

Phivolcs asked residents of the Taal Volcano Island to evacuate hours before the phreatic or steam-driven eruptions on January 12.

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