Año orders stop to 'visiting hours' to Taal Volcano danger zone

MANILA, Philippines – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday, January 20, ordered a stop to visiting hours to danger zones around the restive Taal Volcano.

"This time, we will be very strict. As I said, we don't know when that will erupt. As long as we have Alert Level 4, we should really impose the lockdown and mandatory evacuation," Año said in a press conference in Camp Crame.

Año had allowed local government units to set up the visiting hours a few days after the eruption for "humanitarian reasons," but said it was time to be "very strict" now to ensure their safety.

What visiting hours? Año was referring to towns and cities that had been locked down but where local governments allow window hours when residents can return to check on their homes.

Locals have used this time to pick up valuables and memorabilia, documents like birth certificates, and animals they have left behind during the forced evacuation on January 12. 

Safety first: For Año, there is no "logic" in the window hours, as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has repeatedly said that an eruption is imminent within "hours or days."

"Let's stop that. I don't see the logic of giving 4 hours when in fact you don't even know when it will erupt and in a matter of minutes, everybody will die," Año said in a mix of English and Filipino in an ambush interview after the briefing.

Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12. It is now on Alert Level 4, which indicates that a big explosion is imminent. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.