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Coast Guard warns against traveling to Taal volcano

Sanctions await resort owners who bring tourists to Pulo Island, near the crater of restive Taal Volcano, the Coast Guard said after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised alert level 2 in the area citing increased volcanic activity. "Tourists are allowed to go on boat ride tours only up to about halfway to Pulo Island. Going straight to Pulo is strictly prohibited," the Coast Guard said. It warned that resort owners and boat operators would first get a stern warning before their boats are confiscated and their resorts are padlocked in succeeding offenses, it added. Phivolcs said that people should steer clear of the area. The main crater remains off-limits, because hazardous explosions may occur, as well as the build-up of toxic gases, it said. “Areas with hot grounds and steam emission such as portions of the Daang Kastila Trail are considered hazardous. Phivolcs reiterates that the whole Volcano Island is a Permanent Danger Zone and permanent settlement within this area is strictly prohibited," it added. The Coast Guard said that its boats from the Talisay detachment, including Special Operations Group divers, will continue to patrol in the area. It said the patrol teams have been "dissuading some groups of tourists going to Pulo until such time Phivolcs downgrades the alert level." Following the alert from Phivolcs, the United Kingdom advised its nationals to avoid the area especially after heavy rainfalls "when there is increased risk of lahar flows." In a travel advisory updated Friday (Saturday in the Manila), the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said, “The capacity of the Philippine emergency and rescue services to deal with large natural disasters is limited. You are advised to exercise caution, check news reports and follow local advice before traveling to volcanic areas." —Ma. Carmela Guanzon Lapeña/VS, GMANews.TV