Checkpoints set up in areas within Taal danger zone: DILG

MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) has set up checkpoints in areas within the 14-kilometer danger zone of the Taal Volcano, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday.

Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya, DILG spokesperson, said local government units may allow access to some high-risk areas on a case-to-case basis but stressed that this must be coordinated with disaster officials.

He, however, reiterated that the Taal Volcano Island located in the middle of Taal Lake is strictly off-limits.

“Secretary Eduardo M. Año is appealing to the public not to attempt to return to the island as it is a permanent danger zone. Without clearance from Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology), the island is strictly off-limits and the Secretary has given instructions to the PNP to enforce this directive,” Malaya said.

This came after some residents attempted to enter the island to retrieve belongings and animals such as horses, cows, and pigs.

“It is simply too dangerous for anyone to go back to the island. Human lives must be our first priority,” he said.

He said the PNP Maritime Group and the Philippine Coast Guard will stop anyone attempting to return to the island.

Malaya also said the PNP has also deployed a special anti-looting task force to patrol the danger zones to ensure that their properties are safe and secure.

“We want all our evacuees to have peace of mind so we have police officers on patrol in the evacuated barangays to ensure that criminals will not take advantage of this tragedy,” he said.

Año said the recommendation to declare Taal Volcano Island as “no man’s land” was already approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We are awaiting the formal EO or declaration but PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) technically approved it. The LGU has to find a relocation site for the island’s inhabitants and gradually they would be relocated. For now, no one is allowed to stay on the island because of Alert 4,” Año said in a text message.

On Monday, the DILG issued an order for mandatory evacuation in 199 barangays in 15 municipalities and cities in Batangas and Cavite which have been identified as susceptible to ballistic projectiles, base surges, and volcanic tsunami as a result of the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

“We do not want to leave anything to chance. Importante na mailikas agad ang mga residente para masiguro ang kanilang kaligtasan habang hindi pa humuhupa ang galit ng Bulkang Taal (It is important that residents are evacuated immediately to ensure their safety while the Taal Volcano unrest continues),” Año said.

Among the LGUs with barangays within the 14-kilometer danger zone are Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Laurel, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal, Talisay and Tanauan City, all in Batangas; and Tagaytay City in Cavite.

As of Thursday, Año said evacuation efforts led by the LGUs and supported by the PNP have been undertaken in 179 barangays in both Batangas and Cavite, while the rest of the barangays have reported that mandatory evacuation is ongoing and only 10 percent of the residents have yet to be evacuated.  Christopher Lloyd Caliwan /PNA –