Taal eruption steals livelihoods
In this photo taken Jan. 16, 2020, a fisherman tries to retrieve belongings next to mud-covered wooden boats at the foot of a mountain next to Taal volcano crater at a fishing village in Laurel town, Batangas province, South of Manila. Decimated fish, scarred coffee plants and vanished tourists: the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines has inflicted significant damage on the livelihoods of tens of thousands and is expected to cause more.
Ted Aljibe/AFP
Taal eruption steals livelihoods
Ron Lopez (Agence France-Presse) - January 19, 2020 - 10:30am

AMADEO, Cavite — Decimated fish, scarred coffee plants and vanished tourists: the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines has inflicted significant damage on the livelihoods of tens of thousands and is expected to cause more.

When Taal exploded to life Sunday it spewed towering columns of fine grey ash, which officials said destroyed crops and killed off potentially tonnes of fish raised in the lake that rings the volcano.

"We lost a lot of money because all our fish are gone," said Cesario Rodriguez, 34, a fish farmer. "We just need to find a way to survive."

It didn't help either when government health officials warned people not to eat the fish as it could have been contaminated with volcanic sulphur, though the nation's health agency told AFP no formal ban is in place.

The warning of a further, potentially catastrophic eruption, also led authorities to urge the thriving tourism industry near the volcano — a popular attraction — to suspend activity as a precaution.

The nation's seismological agency has issued its second-highest alert, saying Taal could unleash an "explosive eruption" at any time.

With scores of bookings canceled and many restaurants and hotels shuttered, the eruption will hurt, but no one knows how much yet.

"It going to be negative... 90 percent of the tourism establishments in Tagaytay are closed," said Elinia Sanggalang, a local tourism official, referring to the resort town with stunning views of the volcano.

'We're still lost'

The town alone draws about 5.5 million tourists per year, in part because it is a mere 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the hot and crowded capital Manila.

Estimates of the harm to farmers and fishermen are already coming in to focus, and authorities say the amount could grow.

The agriculture agency said Friday it estimates so far the volcano caused about $59 million in damage to the industry, which is just about 4% of what the region produced in 2017.

In the Philippines, life is already hard for those who have not benefitted from the nation's rapid growth in the past decade. Millions still live on less than $2 a day.   

However, the pain for some, like coffee growers, will take years before it can be fully calculated.

That's because it takes about two years for coffee plants to mature and begin bearing fruit, said Arnold Bay, an official with a cooperative of about 150 small growers.

There are already signs their plants were heavily damaged, though they hope to still harvest some of their crop.

"It will be difficult for us and for our clients," said Bay. "It will take two years for the farmers to have their livelihood back."

The process of recovering is far from started, especially for the over 60,000 people forced out of homes near the volcano and into evacuation centres.

They can't go home while the threat of a new, powerful eruption remains, so they will live in limbo for now.

"We don't know what to do next," Dandy Belencio, 43, a fish vendor whose home was destroyed in the eruption.

"We're still lost on what will happen to us," he told AFP.

TAAL VOLCANO ERUPTION 2020
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 18, 2020 - 7:55pm

Get updates as Phivolcs issues warnings over activity in Taal Volcano. (Main photo by Philstar.com/Rosette Adel)

February 27, 2020 - 9:35am

Philvolcs says in its 8 a.m. bulletin that Taal Volcano’s main crater emitted steam-laden plumes that are 300 meters high between 9pm February 26 to 3am of February 27.

Taal Volcano remains at Alert Level 2.

February 15, 2020 - 4:32pm

Police say they are still waiting for the Scene of the Crime Operatives for confirmation of the victim's identity, whose body was found dead underneath mud on Taal volcano Island.

February 14, 2020 - 9:29am

Phivolcs downgrades the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2.

The state seismic network characterized the activity of the volcano in the last three weeks by "less frequent volcanic earthquake activity, stabilizing ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Taal Volcano Island edifices and weak steam/gas emissions" at the main crater.

Under Alert Level 2, Phivolcs warned that sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the volcano island.

"People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, frequent ashfall, and minor earthquakes," Phivolcs said.

February 8, 2020 - 10:15am

Alert Level 3 is still up over Taal Volcano, state volcanologists say.

According to the 8 a.m. bulletin Saturday, the volcano emitted white to dirty white steam-laden plumes rising 200 to 300m high before drifting southwest in the past 24 hours.

"Weak steaming from fissure vents along the Daang Kastila trail is currently ongoing. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission was measured at an average of 54 tonnes/day on February 7, 2020," Phivolcs says. 

"The Taal Volcano Network recorded one hundred fifteen (115) volcanic earthquakes including three (3) low-frequency events. These earthquakes signify magmatic activity beneath the Taal edifice that could lead to eruptive activity at the Main Crater," it adds.

February 7, 2020 - 8:36am

Alert Level 3 is still raised over Taal Volcano as its latest activity signify possible eruptive activity at the main crater.

In the last 24 hours, Phivolcs observed moderate emission of white to dirty white steam-laden plumes rising 200 to 300 meters high before drifting southwest.

The state seismic network also observed weak steamong from fissure vents along the Daang Kastila trail.

At least 118 volcanic earthquakes, including five low-frequency events and one harmonic tremor that lasted three minutes were recorded.

"DOST-PHIVOLCS reminds the public that sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall, and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can still occur and threaten areas within Taal Volcano Island and nearby lakeshores," Phivolcs said in its 8 a.m. bulletin for February 7.

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