Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the relocation sites of displaced residents within the 7km radius danger zone of Taal volcano, the Malacanang Presidential Palace said on Wednesday.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said housing units across Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Quezon, which were intended for police officers and soldiers will be distributed to families displaced by Taal volcano’s eruption.

“The National Housing Authority has previously allotted a total of 5,448 housing units in favour of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police which are spread out in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Quezon.

“The president approved the request of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development [DHSUD] to offer these housing units as a grant to the displaced families instead and commended such act of generosity,” Panelo said in a statement.

Quoting DHSUD Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, Panelo noted that about 5,000 to 6,000 households – of which include 2,000 families in Taal Volcano Island itself – were affected by the eruption last month.

Batangas provincial governor Hermilando Mandanas told a press conference on Saturday that the Department of Health recorded 39 deaths related to the volcano’s January 12 eruption.

He noted that nobody died due to the phreatic eruption that day, suggesting that the fatalities stemmed from distress and inadequate attention to casualties.

In its 8am (0000 GMT) bulletin on Wednesday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the sulphur dioxide emitted from the volcano was measured at an average of 55 tonnes per day on Tuesday, a significant drop from the 231 tonnes the day before.

Phivolcs added that volcano’s activity was characterised by “weak” emission of steam, reaching 50-100m in height and drifting southwest.

The Taal Volcano Network, which Phivolcs said records “small but undetectable” earthquakes, recorded 156 volcanic earthquakes including two low-frequency events and 18 harmonic tremors having durations of one to three minutes.

Taal volcano’s alert level status was lowered from 4 to 3, meaning that “sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic eruptions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall, and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can still occur and threaten areas within Taal Volcano Island and nearby lake shores”.