VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Mon Tulfo falsely claims Phivolcs failed to issue Taal eruption warning

Read this fact check in Filipino

Radio broadcaster Ramon Tulfo’s claim that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) failed to give a warning prior to the recent eruption of Taal Volcano is false.

STATEMENT

In a Tweet on Jan. 12, after Taal’s phreatic or steam-driven eruption, Tulfo, a columnist for the Manila Times and former Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy of the President to the People’s Republic of China, slammed the agency for supposedly failing to inform the public of what was to come:

“Goddamn Phivocvoc (punning the name of the agency with the Filipino word ‘bukbok’ or weevil)! There was no warning about the eruption of Taal Volcano! If I were to have my way, I would have all the Phivocs (sic) people executed!”

Source: Ramon Tulfo official Twitter account, Goddamn Phivocvoc, Jan. 12, 2020

His Tweet has so far garnered more than 9,100 interactions and could have reached at least 540,000 people on the platform alone, according to social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

FACT

Tulfo is wrong; Phivolcs had issued several warnings on Taal’s possible eruption before its recent explosion.

In fact, it issued a bulletin as early as March 28, 2019, alerting the public of “abnormal” activities in the Taal area:

“DOST (Department of Science and Technology)-PHIVOLCS is now raising the alert status of Taal from Alert Level 0 to Alert Level 1. This means that the volcano is at an abnormal condition. The public is reminded that the Main Crater should be strictly off-limits because sudden steam explosions can occur and high concentrations of lethal volcanic gases can be released.”

Source: Phivolcs.dost.gov.ph, This serves as notice for the raising of the alert status of Taal from Alert Level 0 (normal) to Alert Level 1 (abnormal), March 28, 2019

#FACTCHECKPH: Mon Tulfo falsely claims Phivolcs failed to issue Taal eruption warning

The bulletin also reminded the public that the entire Taal Volcano Island is a “Permanent Danger Zone,” and “strongly” advised against permanent settlement in the area.

Phivolcs again issued a bulletin on Dec. 1, 2019, notifying the public and “concerned authorities” that while there was no “imminent” hazardous eruption, there was a “possibility of magmatic disturbance ongoing under the volcano.” The agency then “strongly” recommended communities in the volcano island to be “vigilant.”

This was picked up by at least three local mainstream media outlets -- Inquirer.net, GMA News Online, and Philstar.com -- all of which reported that Phivolcs may raise Taal’s alert level to 2 should there be an increase in volcanic earthquakes, among other volcanic activities.

Phivolcs has since issued regular bulletins on its website informing the public of their findings in monitoring Taal’s activities.

A Jan. 16 OneNews report quoted Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr. saying they saw the phreatic eruption signs “only like two hours before” but that they “didn’t warn for [Taal’s] phreatic eruption at 1 o’clock” since they were warning for the “larger, hazardous explosive eruption that kills people.”

According to the report, Solidum added:

“We have to understand that small events are not events that we design for warning. And the reason why we have a permanent danger zone and prohibition of people not to enter the main crater is simply because sudden steam explosions can happen even without warning.”

Source: OneNews, Surprised? ‘Taal Volcano Eruption Warning Up Since March 2019, Jan. 16, 2020

As of 8 a.m. on Jan. 12, Phivolcs alert level on Taal remained at 1. At 2:30 p.m., while the phreatic explosion was already ongoing, Phivolcs raised this to 2, saying there was “increasing unrest” in the volcano’s activities, and again at 4 p.m. to 3, signifying “magmatic unrest.” At that point, the agency recommended the evacuation of “high-risk” barangays due to “possible hazards.”

By 7:30 p.m. that night, Phivolcs had raised the alert level to 4, which is still in effect, warning of an “imminent...hazardous explosive eruption.”

The Taal eruptions have affected more than 17,500 families in the areas of Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite, according to the latest report of the National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council.

On Jan. 14, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. filed a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to probe Phivolcs for its supposed “lack of dissemination” of information despite the agency’s alert level 1 bulletin in March last year.


Sources

Ramon Tulfo official Twitter account, Goddamn Phivocvoc, Jan. 12, 2020

Inquirer.net, BREAKING: Taal volcano spews ash in phreatic eruption, Jan. 12, 2020

OneNews, Surprised? ‘Taal Volcano Eruption Warning Up Since March 2019, Jan. 16, 2020

ABS-CBN News, No delay in warning on Taal Volcano eruption -- Phivolcs, Jan. 15, 2020

Phivolcs.dost.gov.ph, This serves as notice for the raising of the alert status of Taal from Alert Level 0 (normal) to Alert Level 1 (abnormal), March 28, 2019

Phivolcs.dost.gov.ph:

Inquirer.net, Phivolcs may raise Taal Volcano’s alert status to Level 2, Dec. 1, 2019

GMA News Online, PHIVOLCS closely monitoring Taal Volcano as quakes with rumbling sounds felt, Dec. 1, 2019

Philstar.com, Taal Volcano showing signs of activity?, Dec. 2, 2019

Ndrrmc.gov.ph, Situational Report No. 16 re Taal Volcano Eruption, Jan. 17, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Solon seeks probe on Phivolcs alert system, claims ‘lack of info’ during Taal eruption, Jan. 14, 2020

Rappler.com, Cavite lawmaker wants House probe into gov’t response to Taal eruption, Jan. 14, 2020

Philstar.com, House to probe Phivolc’s lack of warning on Taal, Jan. 15, 2020



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Mon Tulfo mali ang pahayag na hindi nagbigay ng babala ang Phivolcs sa pagsabog ng Taal

Hindi totoo ang pahayag ng radio broadcaster na si Ramon Tulfo na walang babala ang Philippine…

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video showing Taal volcano on ‘Alert Level 5’ NOT TRUE

Don't believe it. It's false.

Taal roars after four decades of almost silence

Residents of Batangas were startled when the Taal, which has been quiet for more than four decades -…

About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

Contact Us

Email us at newsroom@verafiles.org

MEMBER