MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte will be visiting areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano on Tuesday.
“Yes, tomorrow [Tuesday]. Mag-ikot ako (I’m going to make rounds),” Duterte said in a media interview in Taguig City on Monday night.
He said he opted against using a helicopter to make rounds since he wanted to visit “all the affected areas”.
However, Duterte admitted that his doctor has warned him about traveling near areas with heavy ashfall as it could harm his lungs.
“I’ve been warned by my doctor to be careful kasi nga ito dala-dala ko. Hindi man ito maka-control ng ashes. You know I have a — well my dynamics ako dito sa smoking sa — the years of smoking. Apektado ‘yung lungs ko (My lungs would be affected),” he said.
Don’t hoard it
Following reports of stores running out of N95 face masks, Duterte said he was not surprised how businessmen took advantage of people’s urgent need for them.
“If the demand is high then magkakaroon tayo ng medyo magkulang (we’re going to have a shortage), then the prices go up. Or the worst thing that they can do if they have enough supplies and yet they are selling it at prohibitive prices already,” Duterte said.
Duterte said he intended to speak to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noting that “there are things which I would like to bring to the attention of the Filipino people”.
He meanwhile, warned businesses and individuals hoarding N95 masks used as protection against harmful ashes.
Volcanic ash and gases can cause nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation, and minor skin problems, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
“Mura na man ‘yan, bakit (That’s supposed to be cheap. Why)…? Do not hoard it. ‘Pag itinago ninyo then (If you hoard them) I will be forced to order na pasukin ka (to raid your businesses),” Duterte said.
He said the government could also distribute free N95 face masks to people who could not afford it.
“For those who cannot afford it, we will give it free,” Duterte said, noting that he could ask military and police to hand out the face masks.
“‘Di ibigay ko sa sundalo pati pulis (I’m going to give it to the soldiers and police). In times of crisis talaga, all I can — ano — to manage the situation is the military and the police,” Duterte said, adding the country’s security forces could also serve as “utility boy”.
Asked if he would order the suspension of work in the private sector due to the ashfall, Duterte said it would still depend on their employers.
“We do not control everybody. So, what we can only do is to tell them and usually the statement or the narrative of the government has always a — parang (something like a) persuasive effect,” he said.
Duterte, meanwhile, defended the Department of Agriculture (DA) program to provide a loan to farmers and fisherfolk affected by Taal’s eruption a total of PHP25,000 with zero interest, payable in three years instead of just providing them with monetary assistance.
He said loans in the country took long years to pay.
“Alam mo naman ang utang dito sa Pilipino wala namang bayaran. Pero kung bayaran nila, okay lang (You know loans here, they don’t really get paid. But if they pay it back, it’s okay) so that in the next disaster I can use the money to help the Filipino,” Duterte said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier assured that there are still enough resources to assist affected residents.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised Alert Level 4 over Taal Volcano which means “hazardous eruption is possible within days”.
Phivolcs also recommended evacuation to all residents within the 14-kilometer radius of the volcano due to “high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami”.
At least 10,000 residents have been evacuated in Batangas, Cavite and other areas.
Suspension of classes at all levels and work in government in the province of Batangas will remain in force on Tuesday (Jan. 14) due to the heightened activity of Taal Volcano.
However, government work in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 3, and Calabarzon (Region IV-A) will resume on Tuesday. Azer Parrocha /PNA – northboundasia.com