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The recent eruption of Taal volcano poses risks to nearby provinces including Palawan due to ashfall.
In 1991, the Mount Pinatubo eruption in Zambales province, north of Manila, caused ashfall that reached Puerto Princesa City and many parts of Palawan at that time.
Both Taal and Pinatubo have a distance of more than 300 kilometers from the northern island towns of Palawan like Coron, but Taal Volcano, which is south of Metro Manila, is closer to our province.
The fear of some Palawan residents that the ashfall might reach the island is with basis. Some El Nido residents posted on their social media accounts, specifically on Facebook, claimed that the ashfall reached their town. But this was not confirmed by authorities yet.
Thus the need for modern and sophisticated air quality monitoring equipment. These should be acquired by our government agencies or if possible by the LGUs to easily detect pollutants that pose health risks during ashfall, haze, etc.
Volcanic ash poses a health risk, especially to children, the elderly, and people with cardiac or respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
The Department of Health (DOH) warned of potential health effects as ashfall reached Metro Manila and Calabarzon region.
It advised the public to stay inside their homes, close their doors and windows, wear protective gear like goggles or eyeglasses, dust masks like N95 mask, and observe other safety measures.
It warned the possibility of throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation and minor skin problems and reminded people to seek immediate medical help should such conditions arise.
In a CNN interview, Joseph Michalski, director of the Earth and Planetary Science Division at the University of Hong Kong, said that the ash flow from an exploding volcano can travel hundreds of kilometers an hour.
Sulfur dioxide emission from the volcano is also a large health risk. He explained that ash poses the largest risk to people and animals since it is the ashes that will kill people and not lava.
Local government units (LGUs) are mandated by the law to allocate five percent of their yearly budgets to disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation and recovery known as Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).
Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 changed the country’s approach to disasters.
Despite the progress and innovation in science and technology nowadays, people are still vulnerable to natural calamities such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, flash floods, etc.
RA 10121 mandates LGUs to spend their LDRRMF in disaster prevention and mitigation and preparedness to reduce the impact of calamities. In fact, 70 percent of the LDRRMF is exclusively for this purpose, and only 30 percent is set aside for disaster response.
While other hazards that frequently occur such as floods has been addressed by most LGUs in terms of preparedness, prevention and mitigation, other hazards such as volcanic eruption are oftentimes are ignored and overlooked. There are massive flood control structures worth hundreds of millions like dikes, and other infrastructure yet researches on other hazards are overlooked.
For example, most of the evacuation centers are public schools and barangay covered courts, which are definitely not designed to cater to evacuees during calamities. It still does not guarantee a safe place for our countrymen who seek refuge during the time of distress.
Another thing is, are our evacuation centers suited as long-term shelters and can cater to the evacuees and affected families and individuals due to Taal volcano eruption? Unlike floods and typhoons that subside after few hours or days, a volcanic eruption is dissimilar from other natural calamities, since it unveils its fury longer.
There are many things that our national government needs to look into in terms of disaster risk reduction and management, and one of which should focus on the study to reduce our vulnerabilities to hazards of threats that are not too common.