President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to visit ash-covered towns in Luzon today that were badly affected by Taal Volcano’s ongoing eruption. But, Duterte being Duterte, he first had to fume about the “damned” ashfall and heroically vow to pee on the volcano — right after he’s done eating its toxic ash.
The president spoke to reporters shortly after a speech at a Philippine Marine Corps awards ceremony in Taguig City yesterday, saying that “years of smoking” had contributed to bad lungs, but that wouldn’t deter him from visiting the area. In fact, he said, he’ll even prove he’s strong as a whip by doing the unthinkable (and inadvisable).
“I was warned by my doctor to be careful [about the ashfall],” Duterte said in Filipino. “I’ll eat that ash, and I’ll even pee on Taal, that damned [volcano].”
Duterte will also be handing out free face masks (hopefully after washing his hands) to residents in badly affected areas.
He added that the military had already brought relief supplies to affected areas in the first 24 hours after the volcano erupted, and also pledged to extend financial assistance to residents affected by Taal, but did not specify how much.
Yesterday, the Agriculture Department announced that affected farmers and fisherman in Batangas will be provided zero-interest loans of up to PHP25,000 (US$500), repayable over three years, under the department’s Survival and Recovery Assistance Program.
The provincial government of Batangas, which was hardest hit by Taal’s activity, has declared a state of calamity due to water and power interruptions, and road closures brought about by the devastating ashfall. The declaration allows the province to tap into emergency funds and freeze the prices of basic goods.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s situation report this morning, close to 7,000 families, or over 30,000 individuals, are taking temporary shelter in 118 evacuation centers in Calabarzon. Over half of the evacuees are from the provinces of Cavite and Batangas.
Three sections of road in Batangas are also considered impassable or are temporarily closed due to ashfall, and a total of 604 flights, more than half of which were domestic, have also been canceled.
Despite the disruptions, airport authorities have declared that Ninoy Aquino International Airport had resumed partial operations as of yesterday morning.