By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz and Genalyn Kabiling
Fish kill due to high sulfur content in Taal Lake could damage around 6,000 fish cages with production loss estimated at 15,033 metric tons, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Sulfur upwelling, which is due to the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano, could affect tilapia, as well as Sardinella tawilis, that are mostly thriving in Taal Lake.
Sardinella tawilis, which can only be found in the Philippines, is an endangered fish species under the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
With this development, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) director Renato Solidum said fishing activity should be prohibited, especially given the evacuation implemented within the 14-kilometer danger zone around the restive volcano.
“Pag sinabi natin within 14 kilometers, kasama na Taal Lake, dapat walang tao (When we say within 14 kilometers, it includes Taal Lake where there should be no people),” Solidum said in the “Laging Handa” (Always Ready) press briefing at the Palace.
“Pag sumabog ‘yun ng malakas, gagapang ‘yung above lake water. ‘Pag nandun ka sa lake, delikado (If there’s a strong explosion, it will spread above lake water. If you’re in the lake, it is dangerous),” he said, adding that the Alert Level 4 status over Taal remains.
Fish from Taal not safe
Likewise, the public is also strongly discouraged from eating fish from Taal Lake to avoid food poisoning and other health problems, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia Laxamana said.
Laxamana, in the same press briefing, said people who eat contaminated fish might experience symptoms such stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea.
“Pinagbawal na. Definitely may advisory na lahat nanggagaling diyan sa area ng Taal, Batangas dapat wala na bibili kasi hindi natin maaasahan ‘yung safety ang ating mamamayan (It is prohibited. We have an advisory that no one should buy fish from Taal because we cannot ensure the safety of the people),” she said.
“Parang food poisoning ‘yan, walang tigil ang pagtatae at pagsusuka. Ang number one natin gawin ay rehydrate ang pasyente (It’s like food poisoning. There will be nonstop diarrhea and vomiting. The number one remedy is to rehydrate the patient).”
In a later media interview, Laxamana said fish from Taal Lake may not be safe for human consumption following the volcano’s release of toxic materials.
“We advise people not to eat fish from the lake kasi lumabas na yung mga toxic materials from the volcano (because the volcano has unleashed toxic materials),” she said.
“If you have diarrhea, you can go into dehydration. Akala nila ordinary stomach pains, pagtatae; pag walang consultation na ginawa, akala nila ordinary lang ‘yun (they think it’s just ordinary stomach pain, diarrhea, if there no medical consultation).”
She said the resumption of consumption of fish from Taal Lake will depend on advice from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Agriculture (DA).
Stronger eruption possible
Meanwhile, Taal spewed lava, ash and steam, and trembled constantly Tuesday on the third day of an eruption that could portend a much bigger and dangerous eruption, officials warned as tens of thousands of people fled ash-blanketed villages in the danger zone.
The continuing restiveness of the Taal volcano after it rumbled to life Sunday indicates magma may still be rising to the crater, Phivolcs said.
The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the sky with dark-gray plumes of ash-laden steam that reached 2 kilometers (more than 1 mile) high. The massive volcanic column at times flashed with streaks of lightning.
No slowing down
Solidum said on Tuesday that the volcano is not showing signs of slowing down as its main crater continued to spew lava and ash, triggering series of tremors in the area.
While lesser volcanic activities have been observed in the surface crater of Taal such as weaker lava fountaining, Solidum said that strong and recurring volcanic quakes indicate that there is still a movement of magma beneath Taal Volcano’s edifice which may further lead to explosive eruption.
According to Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief Mariton Bornas, a total of 355 volcanic quakes were recorded near Taal as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, since Sunday afternoon prior to its phreatic eruption.
“These earthquakes were measured with magnitude of up to 4.1 and were felt with intensities ranging from Intensity I to V in Tagaytay City in Cavite, and Alitagtag, Lemery, Sto. Tomas, and Talisay in Batangas,” Bornas explained in a press conference.
Bornas pointed out that the tremblors recorded in areas near the volcano were slightly stronger for a volcanic earthquake, meaning there is a continued movement of significant volume of magma beneath Taal.
Fissures have also been found in Lemery and Talisay in Batangas, Bornas said.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture-Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) has reported combined agricultural sector damage and losses P577.59 million, affecting 2,772 hectares of farms and 102 animal heads.
The National Food Authority (NFA) assured that it has enough rice stocks in areas affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.
It could supply the rice needs of local government units, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and other relief agencies for the volcano victims, with a total of 4,090,000 bags from the affected regions.
NFA Administrator Judy Dansal guaranteed that the rice stocks are safe for human consumption as they are stored in properly maintained warehouses away from ash fall.
Secretary William Dar has directed DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service, Regional Agribusiness, Marketing Assistance Divisions, and BFAR to intensify price monitoring, as well as to source needed food supply for Metro Manila markets.
Still at Alert Level 4
As this developed, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has advised the public to get only accurate and reliable information and updates on Taal Volcano’s eruption from reliable sources such as official government websites and social media accounts.
“Fake news is circulating across social media platforms about the recent Taal volcanic activity that can misinform and confuse those who come across them. Do not entertain posts from unofficial sources,” the NDRRMC said in an advisory on Monday night.
The NDRRMC issued the advisory due to social media posts circulating that Taal’s alert status has already reached level 5, which it denied.
As of Tuesday midnight, the NDRRMC said the alert status of Taal remains at level 4. (With reports from AP, Alexandria San Juan, and Martin A. Sadongdong)