TAAL ERUPTION: Government brings aid to displaced residents

Evacuees camped inside a sports complex, which serve as an evacuation center for families affected by Taal Volcano explosion, erupted in joyful hollers on January 14, 2020, 14 the moment President Duterte stepped on the improvised platform in one corner of the stadium.

President Rodrigo Duterte and DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista lead the distribution of relief goods to evacuees in Talisay, Batangas. (Photo: PIA)

The President just emerged from a more than three hour-situation briefing from a nearby building next to the coliseum where he met national and provincial government officials who have been working on the ground the day Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday, January 12 emitting ash and steam including lava.

“Nandito ako para tumulong sa mga tao na tinamaan nitong eruption. And gagawin ko lahat — itong Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, at ibang lugar pa na matulungan namin para bumalik sa normal.”

Communities affected by crisis like typhoon and earthquake must immediately get back to normalcy, President Duterte said.

The President said: “Huwag mo nang patagalin. Basta ‘pag dumating ‘yan at na-implement na natin ang lahat, go back to normal life immediately. ‘Yan ang dapat gawin ninyo.”

For her part, Precy Castillo, 64, of Barangay Wawa Ibaba in Lemery town, said the President’s presence inside the evacuation center spelled the difference.

“He wouldn’t come here if he doesn’t care for us,” she said.

Hours earlier, the more than 1,214 families were being attended to by local and national government representatives whose services were set up like a one-stop-shop help desk from first aid and medical support, free calls and cellphone charging, and feeding stations where cooked food, ready-to-eat items and bottled water are distributed for free. One can also find an ukay-ukay station (popular term for pre-owned clothes) where all people of age and sizes can just pick their wear of choice.

At any given hour, volunteers would also arrive at the stadium with their donations of food packs, some by the truckload of bottled water and rice. A group of young boys appeared to be oblivious of their surroundings and looked thrilled with their stash of knick-knacks which they obtained from queueing up in one of the food stations.

Donn dela Cruz, a member of the Batangas Varsitarian, brought clothes that were collected from their members and donors and set up a table where evacuees can just line up and pick any clothes that fit them. He said his group collected more than 50 boxes of clothes intended for evacuees.

Most residents, who live in villages near the volcano, heeded calls for voluntary evacuation at the onset of Taal Volcano’s unrest.

Milo Mercado, of Barangay Sentorisan in San Nicolas town, said he and his family of seven boarded a truck with other kins and headed straight to the complex on Sunday.

“We arrived at the stadium with our clothes and bodies peppered with ash,” he added.

But like other evacuees who were given a momentary respite with the presence of the President and other government representatives, Mercado said they will also heed authorities’ advice as to when they can return to their homes.

Meanwhile, President Duterte handed over P7.5-million livelihood assistance to Batangas farmers whose crops were damaged by the volcano’s eruption and another P3.5-million assistance was released to the province’s fisherfolk.

A check was also given through a Batangas rural bank to aid farmers in their recovery from the disaster. All the assistance extended by the President came from the Department of Agriculture.

Aside from handing over cash assistance, the President also led the ceremonial distribution of family food packs to five families affected by the eruption.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) were the lead agencies that provided the assistance.

After Taal Volcano’s eruption on Sunday, major government agencies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and DSWD rushed to affected areas to provide support.

The Chief Executive assured that the government has the resources to help those in need until they get back on their feet. (Ma. Cristina Arzadon, Philippine Information Agency)