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Residents in Laurel town in the Philippines clean the roofs of their homes covered with volcanic ash. Residents in Laurel town in the Philippines clean the roofs of their homes covered with volcanic ash.   (AFP or licensors)

Philippine Church appeals for solidarity for volcano evacuees

One of the most active volcanoes of the Philippines, Taal Volcano, in the middle of a lake about 70 km south of the capital, Manila, has been spewing smoke and ash since Sunday. The government has ordered about half million people to evacuate from within a 14-km radius of the volcano.

By Robin Gomes

Catholic churches in the Philippines have joined their fellow citizens in providing much-needed disaster relief to people hit by the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday called on dioceses to acts of charity and solidarity in the midst of “this difficult situation”.

Special Mass collection

CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao said a possibility is to do a second collection in Masses “and give this to the most affected local churches.”  “Another form of solidarity is to respond to other needs, such as medical care and attention to those in evacuation centres,” he said.

In Batangas, more than 35,000 persons fled their homes and evacuated to centres from 27 cities and towns in the province following the eruption.  The figure is expected to rise as more residents within the 14-kilometre danger zone continue to be evacuated.  The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said there are no reported casualties from the eruption to date.

Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa, under whose jurisdiction comes the affected areas, celebrated Mass on Wednesday with volunteers helping the Church’s relief efforts.  “Faith is service to our fellows. You receive faith, you share faith,” he said in his homily, urging all to make “this the moment of faith”. 

Masses will also be held in all evacuation centres in Batangas province on Saturday.

Fake news and scammers

Archbishop Garcera lamented the spread of “fake news” which gives a false depiction of the situation and causes confusion and panic.  

The archbishop also lamented a post using his name asking for donations to certain bank accounts.  Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan has also warned the public against scammers using his name and that of other bishops to solicit supposed donations for volcano victims.

Archbishop Garcera had appealed on Monday for aid to support their ongoing relief operations. Among the most urgent needs, he said, are food, potable water, hygiene kits, blankets, towels, medicine, and face masks. 

Children

Meanwhile, Save the Children said on Tuesday an estimated 21,000 children living in the danger zone have been evacuated from their homes.  The rights group expressed deep concern for the scared and confused children who have been forced to leave their homes, are missing out on school and face hunger and disease in cramped and unsanitary evacuation centres.  

15 January 2020, 14:00