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Philippines should be ready for mega disasters —Solidum

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) on Thursday said it is continuously monitoring the restive Taal Volcano which has expelled magmatic gases and steam anew, sending communities around it to evacuate to safer grounds.

In an episode of The Mangahas Interview, PHIVOLCS chief Renato Solidum Jr. assured that the agency is ready for any possible scenario including the “more powerful” explosions of the supervolcano.

“Ang alert level ng mga bulkan ay nakatutok sa pinakamatindi or worst case na istilo ng  eruption nya.  Ito yung nagbibigay tayo ng statement na Alert Level 5,” said Solidum.

(The alert level of volcanoes is focused on the possible worst eruption. That’s when we issue a statement placing it under Alert Level 5.)

“Kahit anong alert level may posibilidad ng pagsabog pero maliit lang. Ang binabantayan natin kung lalakas pa. Kasi bawat alert level nagi-increase tayo ng ipapa-evacuate,” he said.

(Regardless of the alert level, there’s a possibility the volcano would erupt but with minor explosions. What we’re looking out for is if it goes stronger. As we raise the alert level, the number of evacuees grow too.)

Unlike other volcanoes that rest after a massive explosion, Taal has the tendency to resupply magma while exploding, Solidum said. This explains its eruption for succeeding years similar to what occurred in 2020 and 2021.

On Saturday, Taal was placed under Alert Level 3 (magmatic unrest) after it "generated a short-lived phreatomagmatic burst” at 7:22 a.m.

This was "followed by nearly continuous phreatomagmatic activity that generated plumes 1500M accompanied by volcanic earthquake and infrasound signals.”

More than 5,800 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the volcano's unrest, the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said Tuesday.

According to the  PHIVOLCS Chief, some residents are allowed to stay in their homes as long as they have ready transportation should mandatory evacuation be issued.

Solidum then said the government should have long-term plans for the possible “worst case eruption,” similar to the 1965 Taal Volcano eruption.

“Kailangan magkaroon ng long-term development planning sa paligid ng Taal. Syempre di naman maiiwasan na manirahan pa ang mga tao pero unti-unti kailangan na yung mga actions para mapaghandaan kung totoong may nangyaring malakas ng eruption,” he said.

(We should have long-term development planning in areas surrounding Taal. Of course, it is inevitable for residents to go back to their homes. That's why the actions for the possible eruption should be slowly implemented.)

This proposal extends to other “megadisasters” like the destructive Yolanda and Odette typhoons, he added.

“Ang nangunguna riyan ang NEDA  (National Economic and Development Authority) dahil 'di na management lang ng disaster kundi development planning din.  Kailangan magawa at unti-unting maihanda ang local government at residents in the long-term,” he said.

(NEDA is the lead agency there because what is needed is not only disaster preparedness but development planning. We should implement it and prepare the local governments and residents for the long-term.)

“Ang kailangan talaga sa buong bansa, handa po tayo sa moderate to maliliit na scale ng hazard or disaster pero ang isang advocacy ko ay maghanda ang Pilipinas sa  extreme disasters or mega disasters….kasi hindi lang po local ang kailangan gumanap ng katungkulan pero pati national level. Hindi makakaya ng local government yung pagpaplano, paghahanda at pag-respond sa large-scale or extreme disaster. Yun ang isang kailangan baguhin na framework,” he said.

(What the country needs is to be ready not just for moderate or small-scale hazards or disasters. Part of my advocacy too is for the Philippines to be prepared for extreme disasters or mega disasters…because it is not only the local governments that need to fulfill their role but the national government too. The local government cannot handle the planning and responding to large-scale or extreme disasters.)