A general view shows vehicles covered in ash by the eruption of the Taal volcano, near Agoncillo on Jan. 20, 2020. Decimated fish, scarred coffee plants and vanished tourists: the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines has inflicted significant damage on the livelihoods of tens of thousands and is expected to cause more.
Ed Jones/AFP
Taal eruption: Total lockdown still up but Batangas mayors can enforce window hours
Arnell Ozaeta (Philstar.com) - January 20, 2020 - 4:50pm

BATANGAS — Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas stood firm on the implementation of a lockdown in towns affected by Taal Volcano's eruption but said mayors could decide if they would implement window hours when their respective constituents could temporarily return. 

"From the start, I'm for the implementation of a total lockdown on all gravely affected areas, it all depends now on the mayors if they will allow their constituents to go to their houses in window hours," Mandanas said.

"Ang sa akin ay total lockdown. Now, if the mayors allow them, then it's their responsibility," he added

Implementing window hours would allow residents to retrieve their belongings and livestock amid a looming "hazardous explosive eruption" of the volcano as Alert Level 4 remains.

Asked if there's a possibility of confusion among the police and military if the governor orders a total lockdown while allowing the implementation of window hours, the mayor said there would be none.

"No, there will be no misunderstanding here. The police on the ground is under the supervision of the mayors, therefore they should follow whatever the mayors order them to do. They (mayors) should know best for the safety of their constituent," Mandanas said

Mandanas admitted that he, too, asked permission from the mayors, saying that he asked the mayor of Taal to allow his cousin to be buried in their municipal cemetery despite the hoisting of Alert Level 4.

"There's always an exemption, but you should always be ready to take all the responsibility, whatever happens," he said.

Mandanas earlier allowed the workers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to clean dust and debris from their power lines. 

"Pinayagan ko ang NGCP kasi apektado ang 60% ng power sa Luzon dahil dito sa Batangas nanggagaling ang malaking porsyento ng power sa Luzon," he said.

Amid looming eruption, Talisay vice mayor wants residents to return

Meanwhile, despite being inside the 14 km danger zone, the vice mayor of Talisay town in Batangas is encouraging residents to return to their homes and start cleaning up.

Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan said he in fact already went home to their house inside the municipality where he has lived all his life because he believes the volcano is calming down.

“Noong 1965 malakas noon, may lava pero ngayon gabok lang. Ibig sabihin sumingaw lang after 50 years. Ang prediction naman ng Phivolcs ay gunaw. Kung malakas ito dapat nag produce ng malaking hukay, pero hindi nag produce ng lava dahil mahina ang heat. Sa aking pananaw, opinion. Scientist sila (Phivolcs) pero wala naman naka-detect noong pumutok ah,” he said.

He said he would allow residents to return to their homes so they could start clearing up and return to their normal lives despite warnings from other authorities that he might be held liable under the law.

“Hinihikayat ko nga bumalik na kayo at maglinis. E di kasuhan nila ako pag pumutok at kasama na rin naman ako sa mga mamamatay. Kaya ga nilang kupkupin ang populasyon naming 70,000 sa mahabang panahon? Lasa ko’y hindi, ang iba nga ay nagugutom na,” he lamented.

He said 30% of their local economy has been affected by the threat but their fish cages in Talisay have not been damaged.

“Ang naapektuhan sa Agoncillo at yung talagang sa harap ng bulkan dahil sa net nila sumama ang mga grabita, pag napuno ang net lulubog kasama ang isda. Sa amin kakaunti at alikabok lang kaya hindi lumubog ang net,” Natanauan said.

He also assured the public that it is safe to eat tilapia from the lake.

“Hindi ako naniniwala na hindi ligtas kainin, buhay nga hinuli, kami nga ngayon ay nag-iihaw ng huli. Ang tilapia nga naka-survive, e ang tao pa. Kung nakakain ng sulfur (ang tilapia) e di patay na lahat,” he added.

Less than a week since the Department of Health issued a warning against consuming fish from Taal Lake, the Department of Agriculture announced that fish samples were actually safe to eat amid Taal Volcano's unrest.

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on Sunday night, laboratory analyses for water and fish samples "revealed that consumption of fish from Taal Lake is safe, but it must be confined to those that are fresh and caught alive."

The department also cautioned the public that any fish caught in the lake must first have their internal organs removed and should be washed and cooked thoroughly.

Fisherfolk group urges authorities to conduct a comprehensive study.

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