Batangas vice mayor threatened with sanctions if he allows residents to return to Taal evacuation zone

Taal Volcano. Photo: George Calvelo/ABS-CBN News
Taal Volcano. Photo: George Calvelo/ABS-CBN News

Charlie Natanauan is having an interesting week.

The vice mayor of Talisay town in Batangas was living in relative obscurity until he went on a full-blown rant on the radio earlier this week, blasting the scientists of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) for what he maintained was their baseless prediction of a potential violent eruption of the Taal Volcano. (How was Charlie so sure? Well, his dad saw the volcano erupt one time about 50 years back and told him about it, so y’know, he’s pretty much an expert.)

It seems, however, that the powers that be weren’t exactly convinced. Today, Natanauan was warned that he could face sanctions should he allow Talisay residents to return to their homes.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in an interview with ANC that while Natanauan is free to say what he feels, acting on it is another matter. (The Interior and Local Government Department is responsible for sanctioning erring local public officials.)

“If he starts letting people go back to Talisay, including himself, then that’s when we will put in the potential administrative sanctions,” Densing said. “We will let him be [for now]… Let him say whatever he wants to say, but at the end of the day, what we will look at are his actions.”

Read: Netizens cheer Batangas seamstress for making free DIY face masks for neighbors affected by Taal explosion

In case you missed Natanauan’s much-talked-about interview on DZMM, he told the station that Talisay’s residents should be allowed to go back to their homes because things have returned to normal. He also wanted President Rodrigo Duterte to force PHIVOLCS’ scientists to change their assessment that Taal could erupt, a prediction that Natanauan insists was mere “opinion.”

PHIVOLCS scientist Mariton Bornas, who leads the agency’s volcano monitoring division, dug her heels yesterday and said that they were not going to change their assessment just to please the skeptical vice mayor. (Because, you know, science.)

“We can understand that he is under so much stress. We would like to respect the feelings of the vice mayor, but at the same time, we are firm in our science,” Bornas said.

Read: Lucky Dog! Pup buried in hole by Taal eruption rescued by cops

Meanwhile, police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. appealed to Natanauan to cut out the nonsense in no uncertain terms yesterday. Danao is the director of Region IV-A, which covers Batangas. The police have been implementing a lockdown in several towns in the area, including Talisay, due to fears that Taal will erupt.

“Please don’t encourage them to go back,” Danao said in an interview with radio station DZRH. “If something happens because you allowed them to go back, if I see you alive, I will sacrifice you to the volcano.”

Talisay, a town of fewer than 50,000 people, lies at the foot of the volcano, an area that the PHIVOLCS has said should be evacuated.

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