Lambanog deaths rise to 11; ban ordered

Ed Amoroso - The Philippine Star
Lambanog deaths rise to 11; ban ordered
Patients receiving treatment for suspected methanol poisoning after drinking lambanog or coconut wine wait at the emergency ward of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila yesterday.
Miguel De Guzman

CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna, Philippines — Eleven people have now died after drinking lambanog or coconut wine last Thursday in several Christmas parties in Rizal, Laguna.

Mayor Vener Muñoz of Rizal, Laguna yesterday declared a state of emergency in his town to deal with the situation.

Another resident in Candelaria, Quezon also died on Thursday after consuming lambanog, one of the most popular alcoholic drinks Southern Tagalog.

Muñoz had banned the sale of lambanog in all stores in Rizal as the fatalities increased from seven to 11.

Police said six of the 11 victims in Laguna have been identified as Maricris Dimayuga, 24; Cenon Piedra, 60; Ricky Vitangcol; Analyn Lanuza, 34; all residents of Barangay Pook, Rizal, while Marlon Veridiano and Elmer Dorado were from Nagcarlan, Laguna.

In Candelaria, Quezon, Ernesto Aguilar, 54, of Barangay Catalina Sur, died after drinking coconut wine last Thursday.

Dr. Doraley Selvio of San Pablo City District Hospital said another lambanog victim, Jason Navarroza, 34, is still in critical condition in the hospital.

Officials said more than 300 Rizal residents who drank coconut wine were rushed to hospitals in Nagcarlan and San Pablo City and the Philippine General Hospital.

Selvio said that the cause of death of the victims was methanol poisoning.

Rizal police chief Capt. Lindley Tibuc said the victims attended separate Christmas parties and a birthday party where they drank Rey Coconut Wine purchased at the same Rey Lambanog store, operated by Nicanor Buela delos Reyes.

Calabarzon police director Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. ordered police units to compel liquor store owners to stop the sale of lambanog on a temporary basis.

Danao’s directive is for the entire region which covers the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas and Quezon.

“I have directed the provincial directors and all chiefs of police to go around and tell that the sale of lambanog is prohibited,” he said.

Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, Calabarzon police spokesperson, said the regional command advised all provincial directors and chiefs of police in the region to advise all vendors not to sell lambanog for the meantime pending the request for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to examine all coconut wine brands in the region.

Gaoiran said the police directors were also ordered to coordinate with local officials and the FDA for the temporary ban on the sale of lambanog.

She said investigators are coordinating with the FDA to test samples of Rey Coconut Wine.

In Candelaria, Quezon, police said aside from one fatality, several victims identified as Fernando Balmes, 53; Christian Aguilar, 25; David Tamagos, 22; Armando Romulo Aguilar, 34 and Nelson Balmes Aguilar, 48, were also hospitalized.

The victims complained of stomach pain and dizziness.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Candelaria had recommended to local officials to order a temporary ban on sale of lambanog pending the investigation and results of the FDA tests.

Malacañang yesterday expressed alarm over the lambanog poisoning and called on the public to be mindful of the products they consume.

“The Palace expresses alarm over the reported cases of lambanog poisoning in Laguna and Quezon. We remind the public that they should always check whether their alcohol purchases, or any product that they consume for that matter, have been registered or approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.?“Prudence dictates that we should always be mindful of what we ingest, particularly during this time of merrymaking,” he added.

FDA warning

The FDA yesterday reiterated its call for the public not to patronize unregistered lambanog products following the death of 11 individuals in Laguna and Quezon.

FDA officer-in-charge Eric Domingo said lambanog can be harmful to vital organs if the manufacturing processes are faulty.

“We are investigating this. But our suspicion is that it’s methanol poisoning and that’s the working impression that is being used in managing the patients,” he noted.

According to Domingo, methanol is a byproduct produced naturally when distilling lambanog but this substance should be removed through a process.

He said methanol cannot be metabolized by the human body, resulting in formation of formaldehyde which eventually becomes formic acid, thus leading to “metabolic acidosis.”

“If the manufacturer does not follow the proper manufacturing processes in making alcohol like the temperature and time for distillation, harmful substances are formed,” he added.

Domingo has called on the public to be vigilant in buying lambanog since only 14 brands have certificates of product registration from the FDA as of Dec. 23, 2019.

The registered brands include Mang Andoy, Island Coco, Lakan Bronze, Jimmy’s (Bubble Gum Flavor), Jimmy’s (unflavored), San Juan Lambanog, Lakan Extra Premium, Craft Distilled Lakan, Lakan Silver, Dory’s Lambanong, Jimmy’s Lambanong (Strawberry), Ram-Ciel Lambanog, San Juan Premium Lambanog and San Juan.

He also urged local governments to help in monitoring the sale of lambanog in their areas of jurisdiction. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas, Arnell Ozaeta

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