Batangas coffee industry hardest hit by Taal’s volcanic ash
Marje Pelayo • January 14, 2020 • 369
MANILA, Philippines – Aside from fish kill, the Department of Agriculture (DA) also expressed concern over the huge impact of the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano on the country’s coffee industry.
Given the situation in surrounding communities, the DA said damage to agriculture and fisheries in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite has already reached more than P574 million.
Crops and animals, as well as marine life, have been affected by the hazardous volcanic ash in the Taal region, according to the DA.
Specifically, around 2,772 hectares of farmlands were affected and over 1,967 livestock were accounted as suffering from the calamity.
The most affected is the region’s coffee industry.
According to the Spokesperson to the DA Secretary, Mr. Noel Reyes, there are still ways to recover the affected crops.
“Para ma-recover, iha-harvest na po ang pwedeng ma-harvest (To recover your crops, harvest everything that can be harvested),” Reyes said.
“Iyong kape, i-spray po ng tubig. Iyan po ang immediate muna ngayon (Coffee [trees] can be sprayed [with water]. That’s the immediate thing to do),” he added.
The official also noted that the Bureau of Soil and the Bureau of Plant Industry will conduct soil testing to determine the extent of contamination which can range from negligible to severe, depending on the thickness of ash.
“Kagaya sa Pinatubo. Volcanic soil is rich (in minerals). Maliban sa sulfur, kapag sumingaw na ang sulfur, masustansya (na) (Like in Pinatubo, volcanic soil is rich in minerals. Aside from sulfur, once the [sulfuric content] is released, the soil becomes productive),” Reyes explained.
Meanwhile, about 6,000 fish cages are feared to have been hit hard by the volcanic eruption specifically fish farms of tilapia and tawilis, the only freshwater sardines in the world that are endemic to Taal lake.
DA said continuous volcanic activity may increase the sulfur content in the lake which can lead to massive fishkill.
“Nag-issue ng instructions si Secretary (Dar) ngayong umaga kay Director Guingona ng Bureau of Fisheries (and Aquatic Resources) na alamin ang sulfur level nung tubig para malaman kung ito’y poisonous na, in effect baka magkaroon ng fish kill(Secretary Dar instructed Director Guingona of the Bureau of Fisheries [and Aquatic Resources] to check on the sulfur level in water and determine if it’s of poisonous level and in effect could lead to fish kill),” Reyes said.
“Kapag may fishkill, lulutang (ang mga isda) (When there’s a fishkill, fishes would float)” he added.
The Department official said assistance will be provided to fisherfolks and farmers who have been affected especially in hard-stricken areas in Batangas and Cavite.
They can apply for loans from the DA which they can use to recover from their losses due to the calamity. – MNP (with inputs from Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday downgraded Taal Volcano’s status from alert level 3 to alert level 2 following indications of decreased unrest in the recent weeks.
In its bulletin, Phivolcs said it lowered the alert level status of Taal Volcano after three weeks due to less frequent volcanic activity, stabilizing ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Taal Volcano Island edifices, and weak steam or gas emissions at the Main crater.
“DOST-PHIVOLCS is lowering the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 to reflect the overall decreasing trend in the level of monitoring parameters,” it said.
Alert Level 2 means there is decreased unrest, but State volcanologists said this should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of an eruption has disappeared.
The agency also reminds the public that at alert level 2, sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the volcano island and its coast.
It also advised that entry to the Taal Volcano Island – a permanent danger zone – shall remain prohibited.
“Local government units are advised to additionally assess previously evacuated areas within the seven-kilometer radius for damages and road accessibilities and to strengthen preparedness, contingency and communication measures in case of renewed unrest,” Phivolcs said.
“People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, frequent ashfall, and minor earthquakes. Communities beside active river channels particularly where ash from the main eruption phase has been thickly deposited should increase vigilance when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall since the ash can be washed away and form lahars along the channels,” it added.
Civil aviation authorities are also advised to direct pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions and wind-remobilized ash may pose hazards to aircraft.
Phivolcs said alert level 3 may be raised again should an uptrend or pronounced change in monitored parameters forewarn a potential eruption.
On January 12, Taal Volcano spewed kilometers-high ash plumes which prompted state volcanologists to raise its status to alert level 4. Thousands of residents within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater were ordered to flee their homes due to a possible hazardous eruption.
Two weeks later, Phivolcs downgraded Taal’s status to alert level 3, which allowed displaced residents outside the seven-kilometer danger zone to return to their homes.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has observed the waning volcanic activities in Taal Volcano.
Although volcanic earthquakes can still be felt around Taal, they are less frequent and less intense according to DOST Undersecretary and PHIVOLCS-OIC, Renato Solidum.
Sulfur dioxide level has also been low in the past days, Solidum said.
“Sa 101 earthquakes, may 4 na low frequency earthquake events. Ito yung paggalaw ng magma o hindi kaya ay pagkilos ng gas, (Of the 101 earthquakes, only four were low frequency earthquake events. These could be the movement of magma or emissions of gases),” he said,
“Ito ay nangangahulugang mayroon pang magma activity sa paligid ng Taal volcano (This means there is still magma activity around Taal Volcano),” he added.
PHIVOLCS, likewise, is considering the trend of ground deformation or “swelling” of the volcano in its decision to downgrade alert level over Taal which remained at Alert Level 3 since January 26.
“Ang aming alam ay nagsa-subside na siya kung ito ay magpatuloy ay baka mai-consider na natin na magbaba tayo ng alert level, (Based on what we observed, (activities) have subsided and if this development continues, we may consider lowering our alert level),” Solidum said.
Solidum clarified, however, that Taal Volcano Island will remain a permanent danger zone even after they downgrade the danger status to Alert Level 2.
To date, residents are still barred from returning to houses within the 7-km radius as risk of explosion remains high.
Meanwhile, those who were allowed to return home are advised to check their structures and do the necessary repairs as occasional ground shaking poses threat of collapse or more serious damage. – MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
The Joint Task Group (JTG) Taal is continually monitoring the towns of Batangas that are severely affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.
The group on Wednesday (Feb. 5) distributed relief goods, in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
With the Taal Volcano alert level brought down to 3, the group said it will continue its clearing operations on the streets that were covered by ashfall; cleaning of schools and repairing of establishments in the town of Laurel.
“Nakaready tayo sa lahat ng eventualities pati paglikas siyempre priority rin natin ang paglikas,” said AFP chief Ge. Felimon Santos Jr.
Laurel, Batangas Mayor Joan Amo said they are continuously beefing up their readiness to respond to the possible explosion of Taal.
“Bumuo na kami ng contingency plan para sa disaster plan po namin […] Ang panawagan ko lang sa aking mga kababayan sana po ay seryosohin at makinig nang mabuti doon sa aming itatalagang o ibibigay sa kanilang plano base na rin sa pinag-aralan at pinagkasunduan ng buong nanunungkulan dito sa bayan,” Amo said. — (from the report of Sherwin Culubong) /mbmf
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