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Police blockades set up in Taal ‘ghost towns’

BATANGAS CITY— Police have set up blocking forces in at least three towns of Batangas which are heavily-affected by the ashfall to prevent residents and other people from entering due to health and security reasons.

Col. Edwin Quilates, director of the Batangas Provincial Police, said his men assigned to conduct checkpoints were all instructed to maintain zero-people in the ashfall-affected areas of San Nicolas, Agoncillo and Talisay towns.

“I have already ordered for the setting up of checkpoints in all the entry and exit points of these areas purposely to protect the people from the hazardous effects of the ashfall and at the same time as part of our measures to secure the houses and other establishments that were abandoned,” Quilates told the Manila Bulletin in an interview here.

Quilates explained that aside from the respiratory illnesses that the ashes can cause to the residents, it is not also safe to return since some of the houses even collapsed as a result of the thick ash that covered the roof.

What they are trying to prevent, according to Quilates, is the unnecessary loss of lives or injuries of the residents in returning to the areas which experts declared as unsafe for people to go.

“We appeal to the local residents not to return, and they should also understand that we are doing this for their safety,” said Quilates.

In yesterday’s meeting of local officials of Batangas, San Nicolas Mayor Lester de Sagun appealed to the police for more police personnel since some of the residents are returning to their homes.

“There are a number of them returning because of information that there are non-residents who trespass in the areas to take their personal belongings and animals,” de Sagun said in a separate interview.

“This information is not yet verified so in order for them to have peace of mind, I requested that more policemen be deployed there,” he added.

Quilates, for his part, that security measures are in place in areas which are described as “ghost towns” as a result of the Taal Volcano eruption.

Aside from the blocking forces, Quilates said he also deployed a number of policemen to conduct regular patrol in the abandoned residential areas.

He said at least one platoon from Provincial Mobile Force Company were deployed in the affected areas purposely to conduct regular patrols.

“I have also created an anti-looting task force in order to secure the appliances and other valuables left by the residents,” said Quilates.

“Also, we are now implementing security measures on bank and other financial institutions because the security guards of banks, pawnshops and other business establishments already left because of the mandatory evacuation order,” said Quilates. (Aaron Recuenco)