Duterte quips: Give offerings to Taal volcano

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The President jokingly suggests to follow a "primitive" way of helping Batangas residents. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte, in a joking manner, suggested to go a "primitive" route to avoid another eruption of the Taal volcano.

The President met with members of his Cabinet on Tuesday in the province to discuss the situation in Taal after its eruption over the weekend. In the middle of their report, Duterte mused that the volcano erupted after more than 40 years of silence because people were not giving any "offerings."

"Maybe you have failed to make some offerings there. You should go there and say a little prayer and offer something. Let's go by the primitive way of doing things like what our forefathers were doing," he told officials. The Cabinet members laughed in response.

Duterte said despite the Philippines being a Christian country, it may have other beings guarding volcanoes like the Mount Makiling, which sits on the border of Laguna and Batangas.

"It was true then, it might be true now. We are a Christian country, we believe in no other power than God but you know, alongside with God, my mga ari ng bulkan [there are beings in volcanoes], the Mount Makiling," he said.

Taal volcano on Sunday started belching ash in a stream-driven eruption, prompting thousands of residents to flee their homes to escape the ashfall. The ashfall reached as far north as Quezon City. The volcano has since spewed less ash, but state volcanologists are not discounting the possibility of a full blown eruption, keeping the warning at Alert Level 4. Level 4 means a "hazardous eruption" may occur within days or hours.

Going back to the meeting, the President also tasked some heads of agencies to look into specific concerns. He told Public Works Secretary Mark Villar to remove the ash residue in the areas. He instructed Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario to build houses, which the President said can be done "in a matter of months" as well as new evacuation centers. Duterte also told Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to help since he is an "expert in crisis."

Duterte afterwards visited one of the evacuation centers in Batangas City and assured the evacuees of government assistance. He said he has allotted ₱130 million worth of aid to the affected residents.

Taal's eruption has resulted in more than half a billion pesos of damage to crop and livestock, in just two days after the event. More than 30,000 residents remain in evacuation centers and government agencies, officials, schools and private groups are calling for donations and volunteers to help attend to the victims' needs. No casualties have been recorded so far.