PNP orders pullout of cops from Taal area

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    PNP CHIEF Gen. Archie Gamboa has ordered the pullout from Batangas of about 2,000 policemen who were sent there to help in relief operations and in maintenance of peace and order after the steam-driven eruption of Taal Volcano about three weeks ago.

    PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said Gamboa issued the order effective Wednesday night, shortly after President Duterte ordered the withdrawal of troops due to health risks from days of inhaling ash.

    Banac said policemen ordered to be pulled out are from the Reactionary Standby Support Force based in Camp Crame in Quezon City, headquarters of the Philippine National Police, who were deployed to Batangas shortly after Taal spewed steam and ash on January 12.

    Banac said the policemen will report to their unit “and return to normal duties.”

    He said Calabarzon policemen will now be fully in charge in the area, in coordination with local government units.

    Banac said the policemen will undergo checkup at the PNP General Hospital after arriving in Manila “for any sign of respiratory ailment after days of deployment in Taal eruption-affected areas.”

    Brig. Gen. Marceliano Teofilo, commander of the AFP Joint Task Force Taal, said the military will just replace its forces in the area, noting they have been exposed to the “elements” for more than two weeks.

    For now, we have 1,500 troops still in the area and they will stay until there is an order to leave, he said.

    Teofilo said the troops are from the Army, Air Force and Navy.

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology lowered the alert at Taal to level 3 from 4 last Sunday because of weakened activities. It also reduced the permanent danger zone to seven from 14 kilometers, paving the way for the return of most of about 400,000 evacuees.

    In a bulletin yesterday, Phivolcs said Taal spew steam-laden plumes 300 to 500 meters tall, in the past 24-hour monitoring period. It said the volcano’s sulfur dioxide emission “was below instrumental detection.”

    It also said the Philippine Seismic Network (PSN) recorded seven volcanic quakes from 5 a.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. yesterday.

    The Taal Volcano Network, which can record small quakes undetected by the PSN, recorded 137 quakes, indicating “magmatic activity beneath the Taal edifice, which could lead to eruptive activity at the main crater.”