(First of Three Parts)

              Science Undersecretary and Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Sesimology (Phivolcs) director Renato Solidum Jr. exhorted authorities to speed up the mass evacuation of people from the danger zone around Taal Volcano, which continued to convulse and spew lava on Wednesday, January 15.

             Reason is clear as crystal water: “Threats from pyroclastic desnity currents –fast moving currents of hot gas and volcanic rocks—as well as from volcanic tsunami and a base surge still loom over areas within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater of Taal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the country. In short, Taal is calmer but, just the same, threat remains high.

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             Twists and  Turns: “Two De La Salle Lipa students—Rio John Abel and Maximino Alcantara III– died on Tuesday, January 14, after figuring in a car accident in Batangas on their way home from distributing relief goods to evacuees affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

              The duo were hit by a trailer truck that was about to enter a feedmill in Barangay Banaybanay 1st along the national highway at around 1:30 a.m., Batangas police reported.  Darwin Lajara, who was with the two students, was injured and rushed to a nearby hospital.  

              In a Facebook post, De La Salle president Dante Amisola thanked the students for their service to fellow Batanguenos in need. He likewise took the opportunity “to appeal, in these very trying times, to our dear parents, students, faculty and personnel to bear with understanding the very dire situation many of our kababayans are currently bearing and to seize this crisis and convert it into a valuable ‘teaching-moment’ for ourselves and our children.”

               Brimming with conviction and emotions, Amisola said: “Let us not let Rio’s life and his example of self-sacrifice be in vain. Let us honor him instead by extolling the values he lived and died for—especially the paradox and truism that there ar things and others in this world that are worth more than ourselves and our own interests and therefore, worth risking our life and even dying for.”

               Starting January 17, De La Salle Lipa has committed to adopt an evacuation center and in feeding 400 evacuees at a nearby public with three hot meals daily until the crisis ends. They are also preparing to welcome additional evacuees within the school grounds, Arnel Ozaeta reported.

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               Twists and Turns: “House leaders admitted yesterday that additional funds could be needed to address needs in the relief and rehabilitation operations in areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

                Edu Punay reported: “Despite the Palace’s pronouncement that there are sufficient funds to address the calamity, Deputy Speaker Mikee Romeo said the P16-billiob calamity funds also known as the Naional Disaste Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) that is part of the P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 might not be enough for the Taal Volcano eruption and other rehabilitation efforts for previous disaster areas affected by past typhoons and other disasters.”

                The 1-Pacman congressman added: “This Taal Volcano eruption is just the first of many disasters this year; P 16 billion may not be enough until December. Many of the people affected in the Mindanao earthquakes and the typhoons that struck Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Mindoro and Western Visayas have yet to rebuild their homes.”

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               Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, on the one hand, said that the P3.3 billion from the NDRRMF could be used for aid and relief and rehabilitation services to communities affected by the eruption and another  P4.2 billion for repair and reconstruction of permanent structures, including capital expenditures for the Taal Volcano eruption.

                  But he admitted that not the entire P 16- billion fund could be used for the Taal calamity alone as it is intended for all calamities nationwide for the entire year. And so, that’s where the rub is. The truth hurts.

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                  Another twists and turns: “Tourism hubs in Calabarzon have been asked by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to cease operations due to hazards to tourists and workers amid the unrest of Taal Volcano in the light of Phivolcs’ Alert Level 4 warning. Accordingly, Alert Level 4, issued last Sunday (January 12), remains. It means an eruption is imminent—after the volcano spewed ash and rocks a kilometer high on Sunday afternoon.

                  The DOT said it prioritizes continued health, safety and welfare of our workers and tourists…as authorities have not downgraded the advisory of an imminent eruption. No more, no less, Ka-Peryodiko (To be continued).