Calabarzon ready to respond to medical emergency due to vog

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

September 22 2023, 4:41 pm Updated on September 22, 2023, 4:59 pm

<p><strong>VOG.</strong> Low visibility of Taal Lake, as seen from Tagaytay City on Friday (Sept. 22, 2023). Taal Volcano has been emitting high levels of hazardous sulfur dioxide, prompting class suspensions in the city and in nearby towns of Batangas province.<em> (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)</em></p>

VOG. Low visibility of Taal Lake, as seen from Tagaytay City on Friday (Sept. 22, 2023). Taal Volcano has been emitting high levels of hazardous sulfur dioxide, prompting class suspensions in the city and in nearby towns of Batangas province. (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

MANILA – The Department of Health in Region 4-A (DOH-Calabarzon) has declared “code white alert” from Sept. 21 to 24 due to Taal Volcano's persistent sulfur dioxide emissions.

Code white alert status refers to the readiness of the hospital workforce to respond to emergency situations.

DOH-Calabarzon Regional Director Ariel Valencia said volcanic smog (vog) should not be taken lightly as sulfur dioxide poses a serious threat to human health that can cause eye irritation, throat and respiratory diseases.

"It can aggravate pre-existing respiratory ailments depending on the concentration or duration of inhalation and acid rain damage crops that can lead into household water supplies," Valencia said on Friday. 

In a news release, the DOH said it received reports that some students from Batangas were brought to a rural health unit due to vog.

“There are reported individuals (students) na hinimatay at nakaranas ng hirap sa paghinga at pananakit ng dibdib. We are still collecting reports from the local health kung ilan ang total affected (There were students who fell unconscious and experienced breathing difficulty and chest pains. We are collecting reports (on) how many were affected),” Valencia added.

Residents in communities affected by the vog are advised to stay indoors and close doors and windows, wear N95 masks when going out, drink plenty of water and go to the nearest hospital when necessary.

Also on Friday, the Office of Civil Defense in Calabarzon provided 16,800 pieces of N-95 face masks to the provincial government of Batangas.

Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas and OCD officials also discussed in a meeting the situation of affected communities and how to address concerns and needs of the Batangas and Cavite Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices.

House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, meanwhile, urged the DOH and local government units to provide face masks and medicines to people affected by Taal volcano's vog.

“We have to assist residents of areas around Taal Volcano like Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and even Metro Manila to cope with this temporary problem,” he said in a statement.

He said N95 face masks and other protective gadgets should be distributed to affected residents, citing reports the health department still has enough supply of face masks procured during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have to protect affected residents from volcanic dusts and gases, and from possible respiratory ailments,” he said. 

Earlier, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) said the vog forming over Taal Volcano is unrelated to the smog blanketing Metro Manila, which is primarily attributed to emissions from heavy vehicular traffic, especially during rush hour, 

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology echoed the DENR-EMB report saying the smog in Metro Manila is not likely due to the vog drifting over Taal Volcano, which is detected west-southwest of the volcano and not going toward the Metro Manila area. 

Federation of Free Workers vice president Julius Cainglet, in an interview Friday, called the Department of Labor and Employment's new guidelines on measures to prevent and control tuberculosis (TB) in the workplace as timely due to the continuous spewing of ashes by the Taal Volcano.

The sulfuric dioxide emission of the volcano may aggravate the conditions of those who have already contracted TB, he said.

“We should learn from lessons from how we recently dealt with prevention and protection from Covid in the workplace. Trade unions should encourage workers to come out and get themselves tested if they have symptoms of TB, or suspect that they have contracted the disease,” he added. (With reports from Priam F. Nepomuceno, Zaldy De Layola and Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)