Some schools in Calabarzon hit by Taal eruption prepare for class resumption

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020   •   242

MANILA, Philippines – Several schools in Tagaytay City and in Calabarzon region have begun preparing for the possible resumption of classes next week amid the continuing activities of Taal Volcano.

Calabarzon Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) on Friday said some families temporarily staying in schools being used as evacuation centers have been transferred to other shelters.

Clean-up of classrooms which previously housed evacuees have also commenced in line with the directive of the Department of Education (DepEd).

“Kasi meron po tayong memorandum po from Department of Education na nagsasabing it should be 15 days after the disaster na dapat ay makabalik na sa mga regular schooling ang mga kabataan natin,” Calabarzon RDRRMC information officer Jovner Dupilas said.

From the previous 626 evacuation centers opened in the region, the number has gone down to 500 after they decongested some shelters to give way for the possible reopening of classes.

Dupilas added they are now identifying other facilities that may be used as temporary shelters for families who fled their homes amid the Taal Volcano unrest.

“Nag-iidentify tayo ng mga evacuation center na konti lang ‘yung bilang or ‘yung evacuation centers na hindi na ginagamit. For example, sa Sta. Rosa City, meron tayong regional evacuation center doon na ipinatayo at ngayon ay hindi pa ginagamit,” he said.

Some schools in Tagaytay that are blanketed by thick layers of ash spewed by Taal are also being cleaned.

Classes here were supposed to resume on January 23, Thursday but was postponed by local authorities.

“Isa sa dahilan po kaya hindi pa po kami nagpatuloy dahil hindi pa po lahat ng school ay ready. Tuloy-tuloy pa po yung paglilinis, kaya iyon po yung isa sa dahilan namin maliban po doon sa alert level,” Tagaytay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Jose Clyde Yayong said.

DepEd earlier said it would recommend the resumption of classes on February 3 in areas that were affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

“Because things are calming down in certain places [and] in the schools which we believe can already be reopened, classes can be resumed starting February 3,” DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said at a press briefing Friday.

“There are places na mas natatamaan sa Cavite. There are places na mas natatamaan sa Laguna,” she added.

Areas in Batangas that are not heavily affected by the volcanic activities could reopen classes to accommodate learners displaced by the disaster, Briones said.

Data from the department revealed that 1,054 schools in Calabarzon (Region 4A: Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) were affected by the suspension of classes as of January 23. Classes in some schools in the region were suspended indefinitely since Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12.

Although DepEd has recommended a date for the school reopening in the region, Yayong said they would have to depend on the updates and advise from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

“Titingnan po namin kasi sabi nga naming, what if isang taon siyang maging alert level four? So, depende po sa obserbasyon ng Phivolcs na iyon po ang sinusunod namin,” he said.

Taal Volcano remains under alert level 4, which means a hazardous eruption is imminent.

As of January 24, Friday, Phivolcs reported that Taal emitted a tall column of thick steam anew, signifying that the heating up of volcanic materials underneath the crater has intensified. The number of recorded volcanic quakes also increased to 466 from Thursday’s 444. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Benedict Samson and Vincent Arboleda)

Off-campus national, regional events may be held starting Feb 24 — DepEd

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 20, 2020

The Department of Education (DepEd) has announced that all national, regional, and off-campus activities may resume starting February 24.

“All DepEd units may already resume the conduct of national, regional, and/or off-campus activities starting February 24, 2020, provided all precautionary measures identified by DepEd and DOH are strictly followed,” according to DepEd’s statement.

DepEd also instructed schools to dedicate weekends to school-wide general cleaning and intensified disinfection efforts.

Meanwhile, DepEd also said that all personnel and students who will proceed with their scheduled personal travels to countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the Philippines.—AAC

Briones: Report that ‘70,000 students in Bicol cannot read’, an exaggeration

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 17, 2020

Deped Secretary Leonor Briones

Department of Education (Deped) Secretary Leonor Briones said the Deped Bicol region report about 70,000 students that cannot read is an exaggeration.

Briones slammed the results of pretests administered by the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI).

“Tinawagan ko kanina ang regional director sa Bicol, ang sabi niya less than 5% lang. Hindi naman ganoon kadami. Medyo insulto iyon sa mga taga-Bicol (I called the regional director in Bicol, he said it’s only less than 5%. That is not a lot. That is an insult to the people of Bicol),” she said.

The Education Secretary also said there are numerous factors in determining the level of comprehension and level of understanding of a child.

Deped plans to release a more accurate report once they conducted a validation. Briones also said that Deped has a program to increase the reading literacy in the country.

She also advised the media to be careful in interpreting and reporting the Phil-IRI.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Taal Volcano status lowered to Alert level 2 – Phivolcs

Robie de Guzman   •   February 14, 2020

Aerial photos Taal Volcano eruption aftermath epa08135676 Handout aerial photo provided by the Office of Civil Defense shows the Taal Volcano crater in Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines, 17 January 2020. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has kept the alert level at four, following the volcano’s eruption on 12 January 2020. EPA-EFE/OFFICE OF CIVIL DEFENSE HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday downgraded Taal Volcano’s status from alert level 3 to alert level 2 following indications of decreased unrest in the recent weeks.

In its bulletin, Phivolcs said it lowered the alert level status of Taal Volcano after three weeks due to less frequent volcanic activity, stabilizing ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Taal Volcano Island edifices, and weak steam or gas emissions at the Main crater.

“DOST-PHIVOLCS is lowering the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 to reflect the overall decreasing trend in the level of monitoring parameters,” it said.

Alert Level 2 means there is decreased unrest, but State volcanologists said this should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of an eruption has disappeared.

The agency also reminds the public that at alert level 2, sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the volcano island and its coast.

It also advised that entry to the Taal Volcano Island – a permanent danger zone – shall remain prohibited.

“Local government units are advised to additionally assess previously evacuated areas within the seven-kilometer radius for damages and road accessibilities and to strengthen preparedness, contingency and communication measures in case of renewed unrest,” Phivolcs said.

“People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, frequent ashfall, and minor earthquakes. Communities beside active river channels particularly where ash from the main eruption phase has been thickly deposited should increase vigilance when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall since the ash can be washed away and form lahars along the channels,” it added.

Civil aviation authorities are also advised to direct pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions and wind-remobilized ash may pose hazards to aircraft.

Phivolcs said alert level 3 may be raised again should an uptrend or pronounced change in monitored parameters forewarn a potential eruption.

On January 12, Taal Volcano spewed kilometers-high ash plumes which prompted state volcanologists to raise its status to alert level 4. Thousands of residents within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater were ordered to flee their homes due to a possible hazardous eruption.

Two weeks later, Phivolcs downgraded Taal’s status to alert level 3, which allowed displaced residents outside the seven-kilometer danger zone to return to their homes.

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