đź“· LASAC

Sonny T. Mallari

The Catholic Church in Lipa City in Batangas province has asked for donations of N95 masks to distribute to residents affected by volcanic smog or vog from Taal Volcano in Batangas province.

The volcano has been spewing thick steam-laden plumes since Thursday, posing environmental and health risks to nearby communities.

The Lipa Archdiocesan Social Action Center (LASAC) of the Diocese of Lipa posted its appeal for face masks on its Facebook page.

The donations could be sent to Laforce Building, St. Francis de Sales Major Seminary Compound, in Barangay Marawoy, Lipa City. The charity group also accepts cash donations via Gcash (tel. 09665726244) of Fr. Jayson Siapco.

“There is still a need for N95 (masks) especially the areas near the Taal Volcano,” the Lasac said, as reported on Friday night by CBCP News, the news and communication arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

On Friday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported the volcano emitted 13,572 metric tons of sulfur dioxide (S02), produced significant vog that rose to 3,000 meters.

Phivolcs also observed an “upswelling of hot volcanic fluids” in the main crater lake of Taal and six volcanic tremors lasting from three to seven minutes.

On Aug. 7, the volcano spewed 17,141 MT of SO2, which was about three times higher than the average of the previous recordings. Prior to this period, Taal’s SO2 emissions have been at an average of 7,818 MT a day since July 15, an increase from the average of 1,289 MT daily between May and mid-July.

According to Phivolcs, vog consists of fine droplets that contain volcanic gas, such as SO2, which is acidic and can cause irritation of the eyes, throat, and respiratory tract.

Residents in the communities around the volcano were asked to limit their exposure to vog.

“Avoid outdoor activities, stay indoors and shut doors and windows to block out vog,” Phivolcs said.

It said that a sulfurous stench was also reported in the villages of Banyaga in Agoncillo town; Poblacion 5, Boso-boso, and Gulod in Laurel; and Talisay town proper.

The other localities in Batangas round the lake are the towns of Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Alitagtag, Cuenca, Balete and Mataasnakahoy; and the cities of Tanauan and Lipa.

On Friday, Agoncillo Mayor Cinderella Valenton-Reyes led local authorities in the distribution of N95 face masks to affected residents in the villages of Banyaga, Bilibinwang and Barigon. They also provided medicines and vitamins for children and infants to protect them from the toxic volcanic smog.

“Maging handa at alerto lamang po tayo sa lahat ng oras at palaging manalangin na malagpasan po natin ang krisis na ating kinakaharap,” the local government appealed to residents in a statement posted on social media.

Taal has had several phreatic or steam-driven explosions since its major eruption in January 2020. On July 1, Phivolcs lowered the warning status of Taal Volcano to alert level 1 (low-level unrest) from alert level 2 (decreased unrest).

State seismologists said that while Taal’s alert level had been lowered, this did not mean that the volcano no longer posed any danger.

“Alert level 1 prevails over Taal Volcano, which means that it is still in abnormal condition and should not be interpreted to have ceased unrest nor ceased the threat of eruptive activity,” the agency said.

It said the warning status may be raised to alert level 2 if there is an uptrend or pronounced change in monitored parameters indicating unrest.