Initial comments of President Rodrigo Duterte about the Taal Volcano unrest were perceived as “inappropriate” by the local online community.
The chief executive on Thursday attended the inauguration of the Light Rail Transit-Line 2 East Extension Project in Antipolo where he was asked if he would call for a command conference with other authorities regarding the volcano’s situation.
At that time, thousands of people in Taal Volcano Island and other nearby municipalities have started to evacuate due to its restiveness.
State volcanologists have raised the alert level from Level 2 (increasing unrest) to Level 3 (magmatic unrest) at past 4 p.m. on Thursday.
At the start of the week, sulfur dioxide plumes from the volcano have also reached Metro Manila and other provinces in Luzon.
‘Lagyan ko lang ng cap’
Amid the raised alert level on Taal Volcano, Duterte said there is not really a need to hold a command conference. In jest, he cracked about the deadly crater.
“Not necessarily. Hindi ko malaman kung… Dumaan man kami kanina. Kaunti man lang ang [garbled] ko. Siguro lagyan ko lang ng cap iyong butas (ng) Taal na ‘yan,” he told the reporters.
The president later said that there is “always an exigency measure of government” in such situations.
“Anong… Anong pangyayari? Nandiyan sina Atty. Abalos. Kanila
‘yan. Si… Iyong ibang trabahante ko hindi ko nakita, baka nahulog na doon sa butas. I was expecting to see them there— here rather,” Duterte said.
The Abalos that he referred to was Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairperson Benhur Abalos.
“We will raise the alert on the level that it should. Now is just— it’s just a rumbling and it’s spewing—I don’t know if it’s really the ashes. Apektado daw tayo but it’s not really a grave concern for us at this time. Maybe it will degenerate into something bad. By that time, we will know,” Duterte said.
He added that the social welfare department has prepositioned aid in its warehouses.
“Pagka pumutok ‘yang Taal, mayroon na doon. Naka-station na ‘yong mga tulong nila. It could get worse but I said there will be instant gratification because there are workers on the ground ready,” the president further said.
While he assured the public that there would be an aid for those affected, Duterte’s initial comments about putting a “cap” over Taal Volcano’s crater didn’t please Filipino online users.
“Here’s your president, downplaying and making jokes about the virus and Taal unrest while there’s actual people who are worried and suffering,” a Twitter user commented.
“I smell negligence and lack of urgency,” wrote another online user.
“I would like to say if you’re gonna defend him by saying ‘he just wanna lighten up the mood to calm down everyone,’ if he wanted to do that, the least he can do is give us an ACTUAL plan on what to do with Taal and assure us of it — instead of joking around and be insensitive,” a different Filipino commented.
“Someone tell this man that joking about calamities or issues wherein lives are at stake isn’t funny,” another online user wrote.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also reacted to the president’s remark and said it is “not funny.”
While people are panicking and serious evacuation work is ongoing in some Cavite and Batangas municipalities threatened by the eruption of Taal volcano, making fun of its deadly crater is not funny.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) July 2, 2021
Last year, Duterte also quipped of eating ashfall and peeing on Taal after it erupted after more than 40 years of slumber.
It was his first public appearance at that time since the eruption.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Thursday afternoon raised the alert level of Taal Volcano to Level 3 after its main crater ejected a one-kilometer plume of steam and magma on past 3 p.m.
This was followed by four short phreatomagmatic bursts that produced short jetted plumes later that evening.
Based on Phivolcs’ website, alert Level 3 indicates that there is a “relatively high unrest manifested by seismic swarms including increasing occurrence of low frequency earthquakes and/or harmonic tremor (some events felt).”
“At Alert Level 3, magma extruding from the main crater could drive explosive eruption,” the institute said in a bulletin.
It added on its website that there are also “sudden or increasing changes in temperature or bubbling activity or radon gas emission or crater lake pH.” The “bulging of the edifice and fissuring may accompany seismicity,” Phivolcs added.
“If trend is one of increasing unrest, hazardous eruption is possible within days to weeks. If trend is one of decreasing unrest, volcano may soon go to level 2,” the institute further said.
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum Jr. in an interview with ABS-CBN Teleradyo said that a major eruption is not expected at the moment but there is a need for close monitoring since there is a threat of magma rising to the surface.
Gov’t monitoring situation
Meanwhile, the Palace on Friday assured Filipinos that the government is “closely monitoring the situation” and shared that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has prepared food packs and non-food pack items for assistance.
It added that evacuation of high-risk barangays in Laurel and Agoncillo, as well as in other nearby municipalities in the Batangas province, are ongoing.
“Local government units are leading the efforts on the ground through their Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices with the support of counterparts in the line agencies,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“We ask residents in the areas surrounding the volcano lake to remain vigilant, take precautionary measures, cooperate with their local authorities should the need for evacuation arise,” he added.