Despite reopening of town, Agoncillo residents remain in evacuation centers

MANILA, Philippines – Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas lifted the lockdown order for parts of Agoncillo and Laurel towns on Monday, January 27, as Taal Volcano stayed under Alert Level 3.

The Batangas provincial government said Agoncillo and Laurel residents can now return to their homes, except if they live in barangays which are within the 7-kilometer danger zone.

The barangays which remain off-limits are Bilibinwang, Subic Ilaya, and Banyaga in Agoncillo, and Gulod, Buso-Buso, and Bugaan East in Laurel.

In a phone interview, Agoncillo Mayor Daniel Reyes said some of his town mates started cleaning their houses and feeding their animals immediately after roads were opened.

But Reyes said many have decided to stay in evacuation centers since they have no more homes to return to. (READ: Taal eruption damaged possibly 'thousands' of homes)

"Maraming bahay ang nasira dahil sa binagsak na abo. Marami ring kalsada ang natabunan kaya kailangan namin ng tulong ng DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) at ng probinsiya," the Agoncillo mayor said.

(Many houses were damaged by the ashfall. Many roads were also blanketed by ash so we need the help of the DPWH and the provincial government.)

Reyes said he advised residents to send the men or the head of the family first to clean up their homes before letting the elderly and the children go back. Senior citizens and kids are the most vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

Reyes is also granting window hours for the barangays of Bilibinwang, Subic Ilaya, and Banyaga, so residents can check on their houses and feed their animals.

On Sunday, January 26, the Batangas provincial government allowed the reopening of several other towns and cities, as Taal Volcano was downgraded from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3. (READ: Some Batangas residents return home as Taal Volcano eases)

Despite the downgrade, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warned that the threat of a hazardous eruption has not yet disappeared. (READ: TIMELINE: Taal Volcano's January 2020 eruption)

Authorities reiterated on Monday that Taal Volcano Island, consisting of 5 barangays, is on permanent lockdown.

These barangays are Sitio Tabla and San Isidro in Talisay; Calawit in Balete; and Alas-as and Pulang Bato in San Nicolas. (READ: Teary-eyed evacuees' appeal: Allow us to fish in Taal Lake again– Rappler.com