Taal ready to leave Volcano Island for good

NOTHING LEFT Berto Murta, 65, returns to Taal Volcano Island on Tuesday and is saddened by the sight of the destruction wrought by Taal’s eruption on his community. —CHRIS QUINTANA / CONTRIBUTOR

TALISAY, Batangas, Philippines – Once Taal Volcano subsides, Volcano Island residents say they will come to terms with the “painful” reality of leaving their communities for good.

According to the islanders interviewed by the Inquirer, they are willing to cooperate with whatever the government sees fit for them.

“It will be very painful for us, especially for my husband who has spent his whole life there,” said Princess Mendoza, 29, a resident of Barangay San Isidro on the island.


“But what can we do? We have to respect the dictates of the government,” she added with tears in her eyes.

President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly approved a recommendation on Tuesday to declare the island a “no man’s land” as government relief efforts were hampered by Taal’s sudden steam eruption.

In a briefing, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the president supported proposals to ban people from living on the island. [eruption]I think everyone will perish on the island,” Lorenzana said. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has banned permanent settlement on the island, declaring the area a “permanent danger zone”.

However, around 4,000 inhabitants settled on the island despite the warnings and managed to make a living from tourism, fishing and agriculture.

The Princess and her husband, Raymund, said they did not object to the proposal. After all, they doubt there’s anything left for them to return to the island after Taal erupts.

Loss of livelihood

They made a living on the island as tour guides and raising cattle.

“Our biggest loss is our animals. They have helped us through life by increasing what little income we get from visiting foreign tourists,” Princess said.

She said she and her three children were at her parents’ home in the town of Laurel when the Taal volcano began belching ash and steam on Sunday.

This made it easier to evacuate Princess and her children, instead of having to ferry them off the island on boats, jostling with other islanders who wanted to flee.

Raymund managed to get away Sunday afternoon, but returned Tuesday to check on their farm animals.

“He was still hoping [some animals were] alive,” she said.

The volcano began spitting out a dark column of ash, followed by continuous rumblings on the ground around 2 p.m. Sunday, according to fisherman Danilo Cueto, 35.

He, too, is open to the government’s plan to close the island to settlers, despite the risk of losing additional revenue from boat rentals from Talisay Harbor here to the island.

“This start of the year would have been a good time to earn some extra if not for the Taal eruption. If that is the decision, we will have to adjust,” Cueto said.

At Sto. Tomas City, fine ash drifting into a school gymnasium in gusty winds is a constant reminder for evacuees from the volcano that threatens to bury their homes forever.

As they sit in the spaces fenced off by the few bags and boxes of personal effects they might be carrying, evacuees wonder how long they will have to wait to find out if the Taal volcano will devastate the province or go to sleep. .

“Everything is in the hands of God”

“It’s all in God’s hands now. We don’t know if we will have a home to return to,” said Leonita Gonzales, 52, who fled with the rest of her family from the dangerous area around Taal.

His banana trees were destroyed by the ash that fell after the volcano started emitting smoke on Sunday. She also doesn’t know if the tin roof of her house will be able to support the weight.

Nearly 44,000 people have fled the 14 kilometer dangerous zone around Taal, where volcanologists have warned that a devastating eruption could rain down rocks and magma and trigger a tsunami from the lake in which the volcano sits.

—With a report of the sons

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Pamela W. Robbins