Reopening of Tagaytay businesses despite possible Taal eruption is worrying some people

January 20, 2020 - 5:13 PM
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A ferris wheel is covered with volcanic ash in a park in Tagaytay City
A ferris wheel is covered with volcanic ash in a park in Tagaytay City, Philippines, January 14, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Many commercial establishments in Tagaytay City recently reopened despite their proximity to the Taal Volcano, over which an Alert Level 4 or ongoing explosions has been raised in view of an imminent hazardous eruption.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, who served as Tagaytay mayor and is brother to the incumbent, last week gave a go signal to the businesses located on Tagaytay Ridge, an elevated area overlooking the volcano, to resume operations over the weekend.

Local authorities also told the same to hotels, restaurants and other tourist spots in the city over the weekend.

SkyRanch, a popular amusement park in Tagaytay with a panoramic view of the volcano, was among those that reopened and even employed mascots to welcome tourists last Friday.

A photo of it was posted by GMA News on January 18 and soon made rounds as local Twitter criticized the park’s management.

“When Taal erupted, Phivolcs was criticized for not warning the people in advance. But now that Phivolcs is waving around their announcements that Taal is still under Alert Level 4, establishments like this refuse to listen and still choose to operate and welcome visitors,” Twitter user @lakwatsarah said.

While reopening the business provides for wages for workers, others raised concern over their safety should the situation get worse.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

One Facebook user hoped that incoming tourists won’t delay the relief efforts to the victims.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Ryan Go, operations officer of SkyRanch Tagaytay assured the public that the park has security protocols in place in case of an emergency.

“We always remind everyone that the reason why we’re opening is not for the business lang. It’s really to help the tourism of Tagaytay, showing them na bumabangon kami (that we are recovering),” Go said to CNN Philippines.

According to the Department of Tourism, a total of 60 establishments including drug stores, supermarkets and clothing shops reopened over weekend. The list was first reported on Business Mirror.

Enig-magma

Phivolcs previously cleared Tagaytay Ridge as among the “high-risk” areas due to its elevation even if it is within the 14-kilometer radius of the Taal’s crater.

Local authorities previously ordered an evacuation of nearly half a million people living and working within the 14-kilometer danger zone. All businesses were also ordered to cease operations.

“If we look at Tagaytay Ridge, where most of the hotels are, they are within the 14-kilometer radius, but they are not part of areas identified as high-risk — what we call base surges of pyroclastic density current, because they’re somewhat elevated,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum told CNN Philippines’ “The Source.”

Pyroclasic flow or current is an extremely hot mixture emitting gas, ash and rock fragments of 800°C.

This area is still prone to the toxic ash fall should the volcanic activities escalate because of the wind.

“When there is a strong explosion and the wind would blow the ash towards that direction, there can be ashfall,” Solidum said.

Parts of Calabarzon and Metro Manila experienced heavy ashfall last January 12 when the volcano released a two-kilometer eruption column prompting PHIVOLCS, to raise the alert level to the current alert level 4.

Phivolcs also warned that the volcano may seem calm at the surface, but magma movement can still be taking place underneath.

“In the past, Taal volcano has exhibited eruption episodes where there were some times of waning activity. But explosive eruptions would follow,” Solidum said.

“We need to consider what is happening below — because that is the threat that we need to consider,” he added.