Enforce permanent danger zones near Taal, other active volcanoes
The sudden eruption of unpredictable Taal Volcano on Sunday afternoon awakened people in the National Capital Region, Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) and Central Luzon from their holiday mindset and evoked memories of another explosive eruption, volcanic fumes and ashfall. Nearly 29 years ago, white powdery ash from Mt. Pinatubo reached parts of Metro Manila. Yesterday, Taal gave us black ash with little stones that gave off a strong sulfuric odor.
Quite alarming was the 30-meter-high phreatic explosion around 11 a.m., followed by another at 2 p.m., resulting in a steam and ash plume that reached 16.8 kilometers high accompanied by lightning.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert level to 4 with a bigger explosion expected anytime. Nearly 75 volcanic quakes have since been reported in the area, indicating the possibility of another explosive phreatic eruption and the raising of the alert level to 5.
Meanwhile, we saw the devastation of communities on the volcano island, particularly barangays in Talisay and San Nicolas — both within the permanent danger zone — and coastal barangays of Agoncillo within the 10-km danger zone. This confirms these areas are not suitable for habitation.
The same situation happens every time in areas near our seven other active and unpredictable volcanoes, namely, Mayon in Albay, Kanlaon in Negros, Bulusan in Sorsogon, Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin, Pinatubo in Zambales, Smith in Calayan Islands and Musuan in Bukidnon. First and foremost, the government must remove and relocate all communities within the permanent danger zones of these volcanoes.
In Japan, there are 110 active volcanoes but the country has the Active Volcanoes Special Measures Act that provides enhanced “countermeasures”during eruptions. It establishes a basic national policy on promoting “comprehensive measures” when dealing with active volcanoes.
This is what we need today: A clear mandate that will strictly enforce effective “monitoring and warning”and a systematic evacuation procedure within a disaster zone.
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The ashfall and sulfur fumes from Taal’s eruption triggered contrasting reactions from the elite and poor communities in Metro Manila.
Drugstores had long lines of people buying face or gas masks in malls and in Bambang, Manila, where you can buy affordable medical supplies. In the early afternoon, the price range was from P20 to P30 each but it zoomed up to P200 in the evening. Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna was so incensed she sent out inspectors from City Hall to identify and charge greedy businessmen.In high-end communities, appliance stores ran short of branded air filters and air purifiers due to heavy demand. Of course, the rich want to keep their air-conditioners running while hoping that the sulfur particulates will be absorbed by filters or purifiers costing as much as P20,000 each.
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President Duterte’s presence in Metro Manila at this time is a clear signal for government functionaries to do their jobs and help alleviate the situation in affected areas. I believe Malacañang should declare a state of national calamity in Calabarzon, Metro Manila and Central Luzon regions which are all directly affected by Taal’s activity.
The Departments of Public Works and Highways, Interior and Local Government, Health, Social Welfare and Development, Trade and Industry and Transportation, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police are staging their own shows while absentee mayors and profiteering businessmen are now being targeted. Kudos to Phivolcs head Renato Solidum for doing a great job.
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