The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology announced the lowering of Taal’s alert level from 4 to 3

Due to a “decreased tendency toward a hazardous explosive eruption,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)lowered the alert level of Taal volcano from 4 to 3.

The latest Phivolcs report described the emission of white steam-laden plumes as “weak to moderate” with 170 volcanic earthquakes monitored during the recent past 24 hours.

With this positive development, checkpoint barricades had been removed yesterday. Local authorities already allowed some of nearly a million evacuees to return to their houses after fleeing two weeks ago after Taal volcano spewed ash and steam.

Renato Solidum, Phivolcs Director, also noted that the exclusion zone around Taal has also been narrowed down from 14 kilometers to 7 kms. 

However, Phivolcs cautioned “that sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall, and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can still occur”.  Solidum warned that this should not be interpreted as  that the volcano’s  unrest has ceased.

Solidum added that based on Taal’s history, “it could enter a period of lull then erupt” as the volcano is ready with its new magma.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said schools will resume classes by February 3 and will hold make up classes on Saturdays and Sundays.

Meanwhile, some residents would rather remain in the 600 evacuation centers in Batangas and nearby provinces as they are unsure about the safety of their houses which were damaged by the successive earthquakes since January 12.

Water and electricity supply problems had not been fully restored yet and they fear being exposed to health hazards due to ashes.(Jojo Mangahis)