Phivolcs tells 'stressed' Talisay vice mayor: Taal advisories backed by science

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — The country's volcanologists sympathized with a Batangas town Vice Mayor who criticized Phivolcs' updates on the Taal Volcano eruption. But at the same time, they stand firm that their advisories are backed by facts.

Talisay Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan claimed the warning of Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum that a hazardous eruption is imminent was based on his "opinions" and he only sensationalized the situation of the volcano. He added no one — even scientists — can predict when a volcano will erupt.

Phivolcs' Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division Chief Mariton Bornas on Tuesday said they understand the criticisms of the distressed local official.

"With all due respect to the Vice Mayor, we can understand that he is under so much stress. We would like to respect 'yung feelings ni (the feelings of the) Vice Mayor," she said in a media briefing.

She added they empathize with the thousands of residents within Taal's danger zone who were forced to flee their homes.

"We understand their plight. We will be the first one to say if it's safe to go back. We have them in mind all the time," Bornas said.

The Phivolcs official, however, defended the advisories they send out to the public, saying it is backed by data.

"At the same time we are firm in our science. We are doing our best. We are working doubly hard so we can give them the best information," she said.

She hopes local officials and residents now understand the danger and risks linked Taal’s recent unrest.

“When we were interacting, trying to prepare the province for this eruption, 'yung sense of urgency was important to impress to them na this can happen any day. Now that it has happened, hopefully people have learned their lesson,” she said.

Alert Level 4 remains hoisted over Taal, which means a hazardous eruption is possible within days. Phivolcs observed weaker volcanic earthquakes, but found that the amount of emitted sulfur dioxide (SO2) is fluctuating, which means magma is actively degassing beneath Taal.

Bornas said Phivolcs will only downgrade the alert level when there is a continuous downward trend in the volcanic activity.