Priest demands more shelters for Philippine volcano victims

Suitable accommodation for 70,000 families is better than local authorities' 'love nest' gesture for displaced couples
Priest demands more shelters for Philippine volcano victims

Residents affected by the Taal volcano eruption rest at an evacuation center in Tagaytay City on Jan. 17. (Photo: AFP)

A Catholic priest has appealed for more and better shelters for victims of a volcanic eruption in the Philippines after criticizing a local government for setting up “love nest" rooms for couples.

Authorities in the city of Tagaytay, located near the erupting Taal volcano, announced that it has set up private spaces for couples to be intimate.

Inside the rooms, where couples can spend hours together after securing permission from authorities, are a mattress and bottled water.

But Father Jerome Secillano of the Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro parish in Manila said better and additional evacuation centers will serve a greater purpose than "love nest" rooms.

"We need more places to accommodate the thousands still holed up in cramped evacuation centers," said the priest, adding that the “last thing you would think about during a calamity is intimacy."

The number of families affected by the Taal volcano eruption had climbed to more than 70,000 as of Jan. 22.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that a total of 71,717 families or 282,021 individuals were affected.

Of that number, about 39,000 families, or 149,000 individuals, were in 493 evacuation centers.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has maintained an Alert Level 4 over the volcano, meaning a "hazardous explosive eruption" is possible in hours or days.

The agency said all areas within 14 kilometers of Taal should be evacuated.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, a former prelate of Manila, expressed his gratitude to people who sent help to communities affected by the disaster.

"We want to thank everyone for helping the evacuees," said the cardinal, noting that the spirit of "Bayanihan," or helping each other, is still very much alive among Filipinos. "It is really nice that many are visiting and helping," he said.

Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa also noted how people are still smiling despite their situation. "This is the Christian life," said the prelate. "We will rise again."

Taal volcano continues to be active more than a week after it erupted on Jan. 12. Activity in the past 24 hours has been characterized by a steady emission of steam and infrequent weak explosions.

The emissions have generated ash plumes of between 500 and 1,000 meters high and have dumped ash on areas southwest of the main crater.

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