sunny.png
Sunday January 19th, 2020 4:05PM

Despite risks, villagers made Philippine volcano their home

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TALISAY, Philippines (AP) — It's the second-most active volcano in the Philippines, a designated permanent danger zone long declared off-limits to human settlements. Yet to more than 5,000 people the Taal volcano is home.

A lush island dotted with dozens of craters in the middle of a shimmering lake, the volcano roared into action Sunday with a mighty eruption that shot rocks, ash and steam miles into the sky just hours after the inhabitants of its four villages fled on a flotilla of boats. A man who defied official warnings about the ongoing eruption to sneak back to the island to check on his pigs, says there is complete devastation.

“Almost everything was destroyed," Christian Morales told The Associated Press, adding that he was only able to get his bearings after seeing the cross of a mud-encrusted Catholic church where he used to hear Mass. “If anybody defied orders and stayed behind, he would have been killed without a doubt.”

So far no one has been reported killed in the eruption, but the disaster is spotlighting the longstanding dilemma of how the government can move settlements away from danger zones threatened by volcanoes, landslides, floods and typhoons in one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

Sometimes, as is the case with Taal, the settlements are in violation of laws that have not been enforced.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said of the villages on the island.

He said his agency has repeatedly warned against living on the island, which it has declared a permanent danger zones where people are forbidden from setting up homes. The area was also in the 1960s declared a government-protected area and later a national park, meaning it should be off-limits to permanent settlers.

That has never been enforced, however, and Taal's destructive explosions have proven deadly in the past, including a 1965 eruption that killed more than 200 people and ravaged the island's villages.

Nevertheless, poverty, a lack of land and desperation have driven people over the years to the island despite the danger, said Gerry Natanauan, the mayor of Talisay town who has jurisdiction over two of the four island villages.

“It may be difficult to declare the island a no man’s land because like in the past, when that was attempted, it was hard to stop people because when they go hungry, they will always find a way,” Natanauan told the AP.

Another driving factor keeping people on Taal is tourism.

The picturesque island and surrounding region, which sit in Batangas province only 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Manila and are known for their idyllic views, pine trees and cooler climate, have become a major draw for those seeking a quick escape from the the pollution-choked capital.

Areas overlooking the 62,000-hectare (153,200-acre) lake and volcano island, which has its own crater lake, have turned into boom towns of hotels, restaurants and spas. Visitors can go on tours by boat and horse-back, hike trails with sweeping views and hire guides to take them bird watching.

“It’s quiet and clean and there is no trouble and traffic," Natanauan said. "When you’re able to climb to the peak, it’s really like paradise when you see the entire island with its swarms of birds.”

Many of those living on Taal have found work in the industry, and Natanauan estimated tourism brings 16 million pesos ($314,000) in revenue each year to those on island.

What happens next is unclear. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has recommended that the thousands of residents should not be allowed to return to the island for good.

“I strongly believe ... that Taal island will be declared a no man’s land," Lorenzana said Tuesday during the televised emergency meeting. "We should not allow people to return there because if there are more violent explosions, people will perish on that island."

Solidum said perhaps a compromise could be reached in which villagers are allowed to travel to the island during the day to work as tourist guides and tend to farms and then return to their new mainland homes before nightfall.

Natanauan said that would be hard to enforce because the islanders would be wary of leaving their farms unguarded and would eventually stay for good on the island again.

Morales, the pig farmer, said it would probably take years for those on the island to rebuild their lives, but they should be allowed to do so. He said he was less concerned about himself as he lives on the mainland and also earns money taking visitors on boat tours.

He said there were many others who lost their homes, farms and boats.

“I really pity them," he said. “They have nowhere to go.”

___

Gomez reported from Manila. Associated Press journalist Joeal Calupitan in Tagaytay city contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump uses rally to defend Iran policy as Democrats decry it
President Donald Trump rallied supporters Tuesday night by defending his decision to kill a top Iranian general
3:28AM ( 1 minute ago )
Iran warns Europe as diplomat says officials 'lied' on crash
Iran’s president is warning that European soldiers deployed in the Mideast “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its 2015 nuclear deal
3:20AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Top Iran diplomat: People 'were lied to' over jetliner crash
Iran’s president is warning that European soldiers deployed in the Mideast “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its 2015 nuclear deal
3:06AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Business as usual? How Europe's royals mix work and duties
British Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's desire to step away from royal duties have plunged the royal house into crisis
2:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
Lawmakers to question how 'deport' license plate got OKed
Utah lawmakers want to know how a license plate with the phrase “DEPORTM” got approved despite state rules against expressing contempt for any race, religion or political opinion on vanity plates
1:10AM ( 2 hours ago )
FAA investigating Delta jet fuel-dumping on schoolkids
Federal authorities will investigate why an airliner with engine trouble dumped jet fuel over a densely populated area of Southern California while making an emergency return, dousing dozens of schoolchildren in a smelly vapor
1:07AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Key takeaways from Democratic presidential debate in Iowa
There was a lot of pre-debate chatter about a coming fight between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over Warren's assertion that Sanders told her in 2018 that a woman couldn't be elected president
11:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Democratic debate ends with talk of hope for '20
Six Democratic presidential candidates have wrapped up their final debate before primary voting begins with talk of hope, defeating President Donald Trump and bringing a divided nation back together
11:29PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Buttigieg: Black voters who know me support me
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg says he will keep up his effort to appeal to black voters, whose support will be vital to winning his party's nomination
11:07PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Trump uses rally to defend Iran policy as Democrats decry it
President Donald Trump rallied supporters Tuesday night by defending his decision to kill a top Iranian general
3:28AM ( 1 minute ago )
Iran warns Europe as diplomat says officials 'lied' on crash
Iran’s president is warning that European soldiers deployed in the Mideast “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its 2015 nuclear deal
3:20AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Top Iran diplomat: People 'were lied to' over jetliner crash
Iran’s president is warning that European soldiers deployed in the Mideast “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its 2015 nuclear deal
3:06AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Asian shares decline on revived jitters over trade deal
Asian shares have retreated as conflicting reports raised concerns over the likely outcome of a trade deal to be signed by the U.S. and China
2:58AM ( 31 minutes ago )
Iran president: European troops in Mideast may be in danger
Iran’s president is warning that European soldiers deployed in the Mideast “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its 2015 nuclear deal
2:58AM ( 31 minutes ago )