Energy Undersecretary and spokesperson Felix Fuentebella said the DOE will implement the order of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management and Council.
This developed as Taal’s main volcano crater emitted thick white steam-laden plumes with ash starting 5 a.m., its most significant showing since its eruption on Jan. 12, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on Friday.
PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum said the recorded tremors beneath the volcano island indicated there was boiling of groundwater inside Taal. Stronger volcanic quakes were also recorded in the past 24 hours following its calm activity in the past few days.
But Ma. Antonia Bornas, PHIVOLCS Volcano Monitoring, and Eruption Prediction Division head, said the latest volcanic activity was not that significant.
“We have to work under the umbrella of the Council, meaning when the Council has declared already the lockdown in the area, the energy family, the distribution utilities, the transmission group, the NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) and also the power plants, the oil companies will also have to implement this,” Fuentebella said at a press conference Friday in Taguig City.
Once an area is declared under lockdown, agencies under the DOE will suspend electricity services and the supply of downstream oil products in the area.
The NDRRMC has placed the Batangas towns of Lemery, Agoncillo, Laurel, San Nicolas, and Talisay, which has “window hours” from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., under total lockdown.
Mataas na Kahoy, Balete, Sta. Teresita, and Cuenca towns and the cities of Tanauan and Lipa are under partial lockdown.
READ: Lockdown bugs relief operations
While electricity services will be suspended in locked-down areas, Fuentebella said evacuation centers will have to be supplied with power or other energy services.
“This is to ensure that everyone, especially the people of Batangas and the other affected areas, are safe,” he said.
This developed as the number of families displaced by Taal Volcano’s eruption has climbed to 88,842, the NDRRMC said on Friday.
READ: 40,000 people bear brunt of Taal eruption
In its 6 a.m. update, the agency said this figure is equivalent to 346,244 persons.
Affected families are from Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon.
Families staying in 488 evacuation centers are placed at 37,311, or the equivalent of 137,538 individuals while the remainder are being aided outside.
About 21,000 children remain in the 14-kilometer danger zone, according to the organization Save the Children. The NDRRMC also reported that agriculture damage has reached more than P3.2 billion.
For the past 24 hours, the volcano’s activity has been characterized by weak to moderate emission of white steam-laden plumes 50 to 500 meters high from its main crater while it had an average sulfur dioxide emission of 224 tons per day.
A total of seven volcanic earthquakes with a magnitude of 1.2 to 2.7 were recorded from 5 a.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday.
Taal Volcano is currently under Alert Level 4, which means a hazardous eruption is still possible within hours or days.
GMA News reported Friday that Batangas residents staying in evacuation centers were sick with flu, coughs and fever because of the ashfall. Health officials said the conditions were not severe, however.
In the Senate, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (Republic Act 10121).
The lawmaker highlighted the urgency of the inquiry considering that implementation drawbacks and other shortcomings still exist during and after disasters, which is evident in the devastating effects of Taal Volcano’s activity and the government response that followed.
According to the World Risk Report, the Philippines ranked 3rd in 2018 among 172 countries and ranked 9th in 2019 among 180 countries in terms of disaster risk.
Gatchalian stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of vulnerabilities to disasters since the country is exposed to multiple hazards, such as typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, drought and volcanic eruption, among others, due to its geographic location.
Senator Christopher Go, meanwhile, emphasized the need to build permanent evacuation centers as the practice of using public schools to hold evacuees interrupted classes. With PNAREAD: Rody assures victims P30-billion will be made available to themREAD: Few signs of life in no-man’s landREAD: Visitors offer glimmer of hope
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