Batangas coffee industry hardest hit by Taal’s volcanic ash

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2020   •   923

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)

DENR denies dolomite caused fish kill in Manila Bay

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A video taken by Regine Nequia, president of Baseco Seaside Neighborhood Association (BASA), showed dead fish floating in Manila Bay near the Baseco Compound on Thursday (September 17) morning.

She said that a similar incident have happened in the past, but the amount of dead fish has not been as large.

Residents are asking authorities to look into the matter not only because their livelihoods depend on the bay, but also because of the stench coming from the rotting fish.

“Ang mga nawalan ng trabaho dyan kumukuha ng pangaraw-araw ding ulam, [Residents who lost their jobs get their daily meal from the fish there],” Nequia said.

“Iyog mga mangingisda naman sa ngayon ay sadyang nababahala kasi dyan nila kinukuha yung kanilang pangkabuhayan, [Fishermen, meanwhile, expressed concern over the incident as they depend (on the bay) for their income],” she added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has refuted claims that the dolomite or artificial white sand being dumped along Roxas Boulevard was the cause of the fish kill in the bay.

According to Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, the Baseco area is way far from Roxas Boulevard and the two sections are divided by a breakwater.

He also noted that it seems impossible that the fish kill happened only in Baseco area but not in the Roxas Boulevard area where the dolomite dumping is located.

“It’s impossible na iyong fish kill nandoon lang sa lugar nila pero ang nourishment nandito sa kabila. Also, there is a big divider which is the breakwater so it is really impossible na dito sa atin nanggaling iyon,” Antiporda said.

The official cited similar incidents of fish kill that occurred in October last year which happened in the portions of Las Piñas and Parañaque but that was caused by the lowering of oxygen level in the water.

Nonetheless, Antiporda is not discounting the possibility of a sabotage or someone putting poison in that part of the bay to discredit the ongoing beach nourishment project.

“Mas gusto natin tingnan iyong positive side rather than may nanabotahe but hindi din namin dini-discount iyan at tinitingnan naming mabuti kung meron pa rin bang cyanide fishing,” he said.

The agency has taken water samples from Baseco area and from the site of the white beach project to help in the investigation. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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.

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