SAGIP MIGRANTE: TAAL VOLCANO ERUPTION
February 1-2, 2020
Municipalities of Sto. Tomas ,Tanauan, Balete in Batangas
On January 12, the Taal Volcano erupted, prompting the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) to raise the alert level to 4, meaning that hazardous explosive eruption may occur within any hour. Due to the threat of explosion, continuing earthquakes and heavy ashfall, the provincial government of Batangas immediately issued a declaration putting the entire province under a State of Calamity. Since then, 459,300 residents within the 14 kilometer radius of the volcano were forced to evacuate from their homes.
SAGIP MIGRANTE, Migrante International’s calamity assistance program, launched its relief drive and fund raising campaign on the same week to aid the affected families in Batangas and Cavite. Donations poured in through the facilitation of Migrante members in Canada, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Italy and other countries in Europe.
After a series of consultations with local leaders and peoples organizations, Migrante was able to hold its first relief operation on the 1st to 2nd of February. The SAGIP team, which comprised of Migrante members from Caloocan and University of Rizal System, and volunteers of the Home Office, distributed out more than 200 Hygiene Kits to evacuees in Brgy. Sta. Maria in Sto. Tomas City and Brgy. Luyos in Tanauan City; and conducted a Needs Assessment Survey in both barangays and also in Brgy. Looc, Balete.
Profile of Area Beneficiaries
1. Brgy. Sta. Maria, Sto. Tomas City
Brgy. Sta. Maria in Sto. Tomas City housed about 2,000 evacuees primarily from the municipalities of Talisay, Agoncillo, Taal, Malvar, Lemery, Tanauan, Laurel and Cuenca. Most of those who evacuated went back to their residences since the alert level was lowered to 3.
On the day of the relief operations, there were still 251 families of evacuees staying in Sta. Maria, spread out in different households, as the schools weren’t available for evacuation use due to the oncoming school year. Still, those from municipalities inside the 7 kilometer danger zone (San Nicolas, Agoncillo, Balete, Laurel, Mataas na Kahoy, Talisay and Lemery) are still prohibited from returning to their homes while the volcano is still on alert level 3.
More than 80 families benefited from the distribution of hygiene kits and bottled water, 25 of whom are OFW families (OFW dependents or families with returned OFWs) mostly from barangays Caloocan and Leynes of Talisay that are along the shoreline of Taal Lake. The affected families mainly subsist on farming and informal jobs. Majority of the OFW families have relatives working in Taiwan as factory workers, and as HSWs and laborers in the Middle East.
2. Brgy. Luyos, Tanauan City
Brgy. Luyos is situated inside the 14-km danger zone. The SAGIP team were able to reach the area through the Barangay secretary who also supervises its Migrants Desk.
More than 90 families were given, 17 of whom are OFW families. The residents just returned from evacuation centers since PHIVOLCS lowered the alert level. They are now occupied with cleaning their Barangay as it was heavily ridden with ash fall, resulting to most of its trees wilting from lahar.
Most of the residents are industrial workers in neighboring municipalities.
3. Brgy. Looc, Balete
On the second day, February 2, the SAGIP team dispatched social work students to conduct a Needs Assessment survey and ocular inspection in Brgy. Looc, just 7 kilometers from Taal Volcano. It is home to 651 families.
Residents started evacuating on the 13th of January, seeking refuge in various municipalities in Batangas, primarily in Sto. Tomas City and in the neighboring province of Cavite. Looc residents are still prohibited from returning to their homes while the volcano alert level is still raised to level 3, as they face the danger of volcanic earthquakes.
For the needs assessment, the team interviewed a total of 349 families, 118 of whom are OFW families. Majority of the OFW families have relatives working in Taiwan as factory workers, and as HSWs and laborers in the Middle East.
Major residential occupations include fishing, backyard farming and driving public transportation vehicles. Most of the farmers lost their livestock and poultry since they evacuated. They are in need of financial assistance for medications, fixing their houses and their vehicles.
Findings and Recommendations:
Contrary to government pronouncements, the lives of the affected families remain in limbo especially those that are in the 14-km danger zone. Most vulnerable are the families whose houses were destroyed or are in areas that are still prohibited to be occupied. Support and assistance is badly needed because of lost properties and livelihood.
- The evacuation process was a nightmare for the affected families. After they were forcibly evacuated from their homes, there was no clear system from the national and provincial government on where to evacuate. The government mainly relied on barangay officials who are eruption victims themselves. There are still no clear relocation sites for those who will not be able to go back to their residences.
- Distribution of relief goods was poorly coordinated. There was abundance in some evacuation centers but many areas were barely reached by relief goods. Evacuees are still in need of food, hygiene items and bedding.
- Aside from basic needs, livelihood is the urgent concern of evacuees. There are still no available government resources where they can access grants to rebuild their lives. OFW families have requested for calamity assistance at OWWA, but the government agency has no declaration yet if they will allocate funds for such purpose.
- Transportation assistance is a daily need. Every day, evacuees who are from 7-km danger zones, would go to their homes to clean and keep their properties safe but they must also leave the area by 6pm. Since this has become the daily routine of evacuees, the government must provide vehicles for mass transportation.
- Health and sanitation has become a major concern. Aside from the ash fall as a health risk, the decay of dead fish and marine life along the shoreline of the lake might cause an epidemic. Clean-up drives are highly necessary.