MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Magma rising to the surface of a volcano on a popular island close to the Philippine capital prompted the government Saturday to push up its alert level and urge visitors to stay away.
The second stage of a five-step alert system has been imposed around Taal Volcano, a visitor spot located 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Manila, after increased signs of activity were detected.
While this does not mean an eruption is imminent, government volcano monitoring officer Julio Sabit said tourists and residents were warned to steer clear of Taal's crater and from thermal vents on its northern side.
"It is still a grey area. We still cannot say if it will culminate in an eruption," Sabit told AFP.
The volcano could suffer intensified activity but could also slowly subside as it did last year, after showing increasing activity in June, Sabit said.
Taal is one of the most unstable of the country's 22 known active volcanoes with 33 recorded eruptions, the last one in 1977.
A lake surrounding the crater prevented deaths in 1977 and during other eruptions, as the body of water protected outlying areas from the lava.