Batangas coffee industry hardest hit by Taal’s volcanic ash

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2020   •   559

A cow covered in ash rests along damaged trees after a volcano eruption in Laurel, Batangas, Philippines, 13 January 2020. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

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)

Phivolcs lowers Taal Volcano alert to level 1

UNTV News   •   March 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Thursday said it has downgraded the alert on Taal Volcano to level 1 following the decrease in volcanic quakes and surface activity at the main crater.

In its bulletin, Phivolcs said the Taal Volcano’s condition in the succeeding four weeks after its alert was lowered to level 2, has been characterized by low-level volcanic earthquake activity, stabilizing ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and the Taal Volcano Island edifices, and weak surface activity at the Main Crater and the Daang Kastila fissure.

“DOST-PHIVOLCS is lowering the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1 to reflect the overall decreasing trend in the level of monitoring parameters,” its bulletin reads.

State volcanologists said that alert level 1 means that the volcano is still in “abnormal condition,” and that this “should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of an eruption has disappeared.”

Under alert level 1, sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the Taal Volcano Island.

The alert level may be raised back to alert level 2 “should pronounced change in monitored parameters forewarn of renewed unrest,” Phivolcs said.

The agency reminded residents that entry to Taal’s permanent danger zone, especially the vicinities of the Main Crater and the Daang Kastila fissure, remains strictly prohibited. 

The Taal Volcano was placed under alert level 4 when it spewed ash on January 12 which sent thousands of residents to temporary shelters and disrupted businesses in surrounding areas.

It was later lowered to alert level 2 several weeks later due to decreased unrest. — ROBIE DE GUZMAN

UNTV Cup players to join Wish Olympics

UNTV News   •   February 21, 2020

Julius Casaysayan of Agriculture Food Masters

MANILA, Philippines — Players from UNTV Cup – the Liga of Public Servants – are set to join the Wish Olympics, a charity sports and entertainment event for the benefit of the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.

Among the players are PNP Responders’ Mariano “Neil Perez” Flormata Jr. and Anton Tolentino, Julius Casaysayan of Agriculture Food Masters, Rod William Vasallo of PITC Global Traders and Carlo Gonzalez of GSIS Furies.

PBA Legends and UNTV Cup Commissioners Atoy Co and Ed Cordero, as well as PBA Legends Allan Caidic, Johnny Abarrientos, Jayjay Helterbrand, Chris Calaguio, and Willie Miller, will also be gracing the event and extend their support.

Spearheaded by Wish 107.5 innovator and public service advocate, Kuya Daniel Razon, Wish Olympics will be held on February 23, 2020, at Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Rod William Vasallo of PITC Global Traders

It is aimed at extending more charity works to the people of Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna who have been severely affected by the explosion of the Taal Volcano.

Since the first week of the calamity, UNTV and the Members Church of God International, together with local and national government agencies have been carrying out medical missions and relief efforts for the victims.

Razon said he realizes the enormity of the eruption’s aftermath and that it will take months before the evacuees could carry on again with their normal lives.

This, he said, prompted him to think of ways to better extend assistance to the victims, and such is by way of the said sports and entertainment event.

PNP Responders’ Mariano “Neil Perez” Flormata Jr.

It will be participated in by artists like Morisette, Imago, Clara Benin, Jayda, The Juans, The Wishfuls, Rhea Basco, Mark Herras, JayR, Rayver Cruz, Ejay Falcon, Young JV, Jordan Herrera, Adrian Alandy, James Blanco, Albie Casino, Gerhard Acao and Axel Torres.

Professional volleyball players and TV/movie personalities such as Gretchen Ho, Kathy Bersola, Claudia Barretto, Gwen Zamora, Roma Joy Doromal, Che Sindayen, Jem Ferrer, Patcharee Saengmuang, Sandy Delos Santos, Aya Fernandez, Casey Da Silva, Ana Gopico, Amanda Villanueva, Nicole Tiamzon, Heather Guino-o, and Erika Alkuino will also team up for a friendly volleyball match.

PHIVOLCS may further downgrade alert level over Taal Volcano next week

Marje Pelayo   •   February 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reported only about 29 volcanic earthquakes around Taal Volcano in the past 24 hours, an indication that rocks underground are breaking.

A column of white steam also continues to form but only up to 50 meters in height.

It has been a week since PHIVOLCS downgraded alert level over the Taal volcano to level 2 from the previous level 3.

According to PHIVOLCS OIC Usec. Renato Solidum, they need to observe Taal volcano’s activities for one more week before they can decide whether to further downgrade the alert status based on the agency’s standard operating procedure.

“Basta tuloy-tuloy ang kanyang mga parametro na bumababa ang bilang pwede natin masabi na pwede nating ibaba ito sa alert level number one (If the parameters continue to reduce in number, we might lower the alert level to number one),” Solidum said.

Entry restrictions remain within the permanent danger zone in Taal Volcano Island.

Solidum said the local government unit needs to assess first if the former residential areas would be conducive for living.

PHIVOLCS does not recommended constructing houses on the volcano island due to the risk of having the ground break apart should the volcano proceed to erupt. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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