President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday said he wants police and military personnel tasked to maintain peace and order near the vicinity of Taal Volcano be recalled considering health concerns and possible conflict with local residents after authorities allowed them to return home.
Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, spewing large amounts of ash compelling mass evacuation of local residents from affected areas.
In a speech during the 69th Founding Anniversary Celebration of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the President said he wants the pull-out of police and military personnel from the Taal danger zone to protect their well-being and prevent possible conflict with the local population.
“Alam mo matagal na ‘yung sundalo ko pati pulis doon. And they have been trying or they are acting as the bar so that people cannot go back to their lands and places because it’s dangerous,” the President said.
“Alam mo we can only do so much. ‘Pag ka pumilit ‘yang tao and the government enforcement guy bars him and he has to do it physically, alam mo ang physical contact can sometimes result in an ugly situation. Then it becomes a conflict now.”
The President said government security personnel may end up being charged with such situations. He also expressed concern on the prolonged exposure of the police and soldiers to ash spewed by the volcano that leaves them vulnerable to respiratory diseases.
“At saka ngayon by this time ‘yung nauna na doon, I’m sure that they inhaled about one sack of ash already. Sabihin ko na sa ano Army pati na — pa-withdraw na lang. Withdraw na lang ninyo ‘yung Army kasi kawawa. They are also human beings and they suffer,” he said.
With the withdrawal of the police and military personnel, President Duterte said he is leaving it to the local government of Batangas and the local police there to take charge of the situation to maintain order and impose restrictions on Taal’s danger zones.
As Taal Volcano exhibited a decreasing tendency of eruption, authorities lowered its alert status from Level 4 to Level 3, allowing thousands of evacuees displaced by the eruption to return to their homes.
Residents of all towns under lockdown were given the option to return to their respective residences and place of work. The towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, however, will remain under lockdown since some of the barangays of the two towns are within the seven-kilometer danger zone of the volcano. PND