Friday, January 24, 2020

Government eyeing permanent ban in Taal danger zones

Families forced to evacuate from the Taal danger zone may no longer be allowed to return to their homes for good.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Cabinet members believe that the right thing to do is to permanently relocate families living in the danger zone or within the 14-kilometer radius of Taal Volcano. The Cabinet members’ sentiment is known to President Duterte, who has not voiced his opinion on it, Duque said.

“The majority (in the Cabinet) are supporting the creation, the establishment of permanent relocation sites. I think that’s the more cogent thing to do,” Duque told “The Chiefs” on Wednesday night on Cignal TV’s One News. “I think the President knows (this).” “A strong policy statement that must be articulated is that available resources should be for establishing a permanent relocation site,” Duque added.

He described temporary evacuation centers as “band-aid solutions.” The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) favors a long-term permanent relocation of families from the Taal danger zone.

“They have to be brought out of the danger zone permanently,” said Duque, adding that settlements in the area should have been prohibited after the deadly Taal eruption in 1965. Lessons should have been learned from that disaster that killed 1,500 people, he said. “That experience was every harsh. Right from the start they should be thinking of permanent relocation,” he added.

At this point, Duque said the budget for building better evacuation sites would be better spent for the establishment of permanent relocation sites. He estimated the cost of building permanent relocation for 200,000 displaced families near Taal Volcano at P60 billion.

Thus, the greater bulk of the P30-billion budget being asked by the President from Congress must be strategically allocated for the establishment of permanent relocation, he said. The health secretary said Congress is crafting measures for long-term plans to put these families out of harm’s way amid the ever-present and unpredictable threat posed by one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

The permanent closure of the 14-km radial danger zone, which includes Tagaytay City, will lead to substantial financial losses and a change in congressional districts. But Duque maintained that protecting people’s lives must be the priority. “I don’t understand them doing great risk. Eventually, they ought to account for their action,” he said.

He said laws should be applied against people who will refuse to comply with the order to vacate the danger zone. So far, the Department of Health (DOH) has served close to 4,000 people who suffered from respiratory tract infections and other diseases as a direct result of the volcanic eruption last Jan. 12.

He said the DOH has spent P12.5 million for the distribution of drugs and medicines to affected residents. 2 more deaths
Meanwhile, another two people – a man and a woman staying at evacuation centers in Batangas City – reportedly died of health problems last Wednesday.

Vivencia Dalisay was taken to the medical center due to stomach pain on Jan. 19. She died three days later while being treated for anemia secondary to upper gastro-intestinal bleeding, said Dr. Andrew Gonzales, the attending physician. Another evacuee, Elmer Salvia, suffered a stroke at the Barangay San Roque evacuation center in Sto. Tomas City. He was first taken to the St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center and later to St. Camillus Hospital, but eventually died.

Their deaths raised to four the number of fatalities among residents evacuated from the 14-km danger zone since Taal Volcano erupted. The two others who died were Felina de Roxas, 57, of Barangay Bangin in San Nicolas, and Violeta Reyes, 84, of Barangay Sambat in San Pascual, both in Batangas province. Rowena Dalangin, of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office based in San Pascual, said De Roxas died at the Saint Pascal de Baylon Hospital due to sudden cardiac arrest with acute myocardial and uncontrolled hypertension.

On the other hand, Reyes, a bedridden patient, died of tuberculosis in the house of Ma. Concepcion Macatangay in Barangay Sambat on Monday afternoon. Ten municipalities close to the volcano and lake – Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Taal, Lemery, Santa Teresita, Cuenca, Balete and Mataasnakahoy – are on total lockdown by authorities. The cities of Lipa and Tanauan are under partial lockdown.