MANILA, Philippines – Additional troops of the Philippine National Police (PNP) deployed to Batangas to help manage the calamity brought about by Taal Volcano’s eruption began pulling out of the province on Wednesday night, January 29, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order issued earlier in the evening.
“In compliance with the order of the President, PNP chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa has immediately directed the pull-out of the 2,000-strong National Headquarters’ PNP Reactionary Standby Support Force (RSSF) from Batangas effective tonight, with all members to report back to their respective units tomorrow, and return to normal duties,” PNP spokesperson Police Brigadier General Bernard Banac said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Securing and assisting relief operations in areas of Batangas affected by the volcano’s eruption will then be left to the Police Regional Office 4A Search and Rescue Unit under Police Brigadier General Vicente Danao, in coordination with local government units, Banac added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Duterte ordered the withdrawal of the reactionary police force because they had been exposed to volcanic ash too long.
"I'm withdrawing my police. They have been there for so many weeks already. Puno na 'yung lungs nila sa abo (Their lungs are full of ash).... I'd leave it to the mayor and police, 'yung police talaga na assigned doon (the police who are really assigned there), I'd leave it to them to enforce the law as mandated by authorities upstairs," Duterte said during his speech at the Department of Social Welfare and Development's founding anniversary ceremony in Quezon City.
Local governments and police units should be able to manage the situation by themselves, the President added.
Taal Volcano remains on Alert Level 3, characterized by a "decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption," although it is still a possibility.
Evacuees from areas surrounding Taal Lake began returning to their homes on Sunday, January 26, when the volcano’s status was downgraded from Alert Level 4, which had meant an explosive eruption was imminent.
Nevertheless, many people remain in evacuation centers, especially those whose homes are in the volcano’s permanent danger zone. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.