Batangas sets up 'ash for cash' program for Taal eruption victims

BATANGAS CITY, Philippines – The Batangas provincial government is setting up an "ash for cash" livelihood program for people displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption.

Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said in a news briefing on Thursday, January 30, that under the scheme, the provincial government will buy ash collected by residents involved in the cleanup in their areas.

The ash would be used for hollow blocks to be produced by cooperatives, and the end product would be sold with the help of the provincial government.

“Ash will be accumulated by residents and they will be paid for the ash. We are now organizing cooperatives where we can put hollow block making machines. We can also use the ash as fertilizers,” the governor said.

Mandanas said the provincial government will offer the finished product to construction companies.

Joe Alilio, deputy head of the Batangas Provincial Cooperative, Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development Office (PCLEDO) said that they would tap cooperatives in the affected municipalities to lead the project.  

“We are still determining the price per kilo or per ton. We will study the costing so that the coops and residents can earn. We are already mobilizing, and we will also coordinate with other stakeholders to ensure that there is a market for whatever is produced,” Alilio said.

The provincial government also announced that it would give cash assistance to families whose homes were either partially or totally damaged due.  The estimated funds needed for this is  P360 million, for damaged homes or  30% of houses in the affected areas. (WATCH: Broken hearts as Agoncillo residents return to ruined homes)

As of today, the Taal Volcano remained on Alert Level 3 with 137 volcanic earthquakes monitored in the last 24 hours according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Despite giving them an option to return, Mandanas reiterated his call for residents not to stay within the 14-kilometer danger zone. (IN PHOTOS: Despite remaining threat, Taal evacuees simply happy to be home)

“Taal Volcano is still on Alert Level 3 which means there is a possibility that the volcano is going to erupt. There is a high level of risk to life and property. Many of the houses are unstable due to ash and cracks so it is still dangerous to enter the place,” he said. (READ: Not yet over: Phivolcs says magma around 5 kilometers below Taal crater)

The governor assured residents that the provincial government will continue to provide for those who would stay in evacuation centers outside the danger zone even if it would take 6 months to two years. (READ: Batangas mayors say time to change how they respond to disasters)

As of 5 am on Thursday, 263 evacuation centers hosted 9,779 families or 34,314 individuals.

Mandanas said the provincial government is also setting up evacuation centers and instant help centers in affected barangays within the 14-km danger zone, not including those that are inside the 7-km permanent danger zone.  These centers will be provided food, water, and personal necessities once Phivolcs lowers the alert level to 2. – Rappler.com