Zero visibility conditions were reported in Tuy, Balayan, Lian, and Nasugbu in Batangas due to the volcanic smog or vog caused by Taal Volcano’s activity, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said on Friday.
The number of affected areas due to the volcanic activity also increased to 11 from six last week, according to Batangas PDRRMO chief Dr. Amor Calayan in an interview on Dobol B TV.
“At this point, mukhang lumalapad talaga (the affected areas are really expanding). Last week, we have only Balete, Mataasnakahoy, Laurel, Talisay, Agoncillo, and Malvar,” she said.
“But now we were able to get down to the other municipalities yesterday, like Nasugbu, Lian, Balayan, Tuy, and Calatagan. Ang Calatagan medyo okay pa po, pero ang nasabi kong Tuy, Balayan, Lian, and Nasugbu, nagze-zero visibility talaga,” she added.
(We were able to get down to the other municipalities yesterday like Nasugbu, Lian, Balayan, Tuy, and Calatagan. Calatagan is still okay, but Tuy, Balayan, Lian, and Nasugbu are really experiencing zero visibility conditions.)
Due to this, Calayan cautioned motorcycle riders to drive slowly, always wipe their shields and helmets, and stay in their designated lane, especially at night time.
She also reminded the public to follow the instructions from authorities such as avoiding outdoor activities and wearing of N95 masks to prevent possible health problems due to the smog.
“Sa ngayon, hindi pa natin alam ang immediate exposure natin pero kapag nagtagal kapag sila ay nag-complain na ng hirap na hirap nang paghinga o sila ay nanghihina na ang katawan, we do not know what is the detrimental effects of this to mankind,” she said.
(Right now, we are still clueless about our immediate exposure, but as time goes by, they may complain about difficulty in breathing and body weakness, we do not know yet what are the detrimental effects.)
According to Calayan, there is no announcement yet if resorts and other tourist spots in Batangas have to shut down operations in light of the risks due to smog.
Visitors, meanwhile, are advised to follow health measures.
As a response to the vog, Calayan said the provincial government is promoting mass compliance, medication, less outdoor exposure, health education, alternative learning mode, preparation of hospitals, and budget allocation for N95 masks.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said on Friday that the duration of the volcanic smog due to Taal Volcano’s activity cannot be predicted.
“As long as Taal Volcano is spewing out sulfur dioxide, this will be a recurring threat,” PHIVOLCS director Dr. Teresito Bacolcol told GMA Integrated News’ Unang Balita in an interview on Friday.
“Iyong duration po ng (the duration of) sulfur dioxide emission cannot be predicted due to unprecedented levels in the recorded history,” he added.
Bacolcol said in the case of Miyake-jima in Japan, it took around five years for its sulfur dioxide emissions to slow down.
He advised the public to avoid outdoor activities, close their doors and windows, and wear a face mask or N95 mask when going outside. He advised drinking a lot of water to flush out the sulfur dioxide.
The smog also resulted in several flight cancellations.
Aircraft operators are advised to not fly over the Taal Volcano amid risks due to volcanic activity.
In a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued at 9:40 a.m. on September 22, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said, “Flight operations are advise to avoid flying close to the volcano's summit as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions may pose hazards to aircrafts.”
The flight advisory is valid from 9:21 a.m. of September 22 until 9 a.m. of September 23.
Several courts in Batangas and other areas also suspended work on Friday, due to the hazardous volcanic smog from the Taal Volcano.
Alert Level 1
In its bulletin on Friday, PHIVOLCS said Alert Level 1, which means low-level unrest, remained over Taal Volcano.
Five volcanic tremors lasting up to 575 minutes were recorded in the volcano from 5 a.m. on Thursday to 5 a.m. on Friday.
The sulfur dioxide emission increased from 4,322 tonnes on Tuesday to 4,569 tonnes on Thursday.
Aside from the vog, PHIVOLCS also noted a pronounced upwelling of hot volcanic fluids in the Main Crater Lake.
A voluminous emission of plumes up to 2,400 meters tall were seen from the Taal Volcano drifting to the west-southwest and southwest directions. —VAL, GMA Integrated News