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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 14, 2020
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



The end times continue, with the sudden activity of Taal Volcano being the latest natural catastrophe to hit the country. The ash and rocks that the volcano spewed rose up to a kilometer high and its proximity to the National Capital Region means the ash cloud is already affecting the millions of residents of Metro Manila.

Taal’s possible hazardous eruption will test the government’s preparedness to deal with such an event and we can only hope that the most affected have already been evacuated out of harm’s way.

Experts are preparing for the worst case scenario as the volcano has a history of violent eruptions, the greatest being in 1754 which lasted for seven months. Its most destructive eruption was in 1911 when it claimed 1,335 lives. This is what government has to prepare for in the coming days and hopefully the local government units and disaster agencies are properly equipped to deal with such an event.

However, what is urgent now, especially for the millions of residents in the NCR, is the availability of N95 masks so they can deal with the ash fall that is currently blanketing the metropolis and other affected areas. Based on news and social media reports, it looks masks are already becoming hard to find due to the great demand. Masks are reportedly either out of stock or priced atrociously by opportunists and considering the health risk to millions of Filipinos, government should’ve stepped in and done something about the mask problem. Hopefully the person in charge of this problem wasn’t sleeping on the job because if masks are already becoming a problem after what was not yet the worst case scenario, it is worrying to imagine what else can be a problem if a catastrophic explosive eruption does occur.

Considering that our country is right smack in the middle of the Pacific Ring of Fire, we should be more prepared for volcanic eruptions and the ash clouds that come with them. A government supply of masks will be necessary for emergency and relief workers as well as the thousands of public servants who have to keep our cities running while being exposed to the ash fall. Aside from that, there are the millions of Filipinos who will be needing masks and while it doesn’t have to be free, this particular personal protective equipment has to be readily available.

The current experience of the people of Metro Manila and CALABARZON with regards to mask shortage is a reminder for the doomsday preppers in us to have N95 masks in our go bags because they run out quickly when something happens and unfortunately for us, government doesn’t equip affected citizens with such protection.

The people of Batangas and Metro Manila have to be prepared for a catastrophic eruption that could cause massive destruction. We are always ready for typhoons because they come and go every year, but I am not so sure about our readiness for volcanic eruptions. What makes Taal’s eruption a cause for concern would be its proximity to densely populated areas. However, if you come to think of it, despite its violent and destructive history, it seems like we haven’t really prepared for a catastrophic eruption.

Natural and man-made disasters have been visiting us with greater frequency in the recent past. We cannot really prepare for every eventuality but it always pays to be ready. The volcano nearest us is Mt. Kanlaon and although its danger zone is not as close to us as Mt. Taal’s is to its nearby communities, an eruption is also a possibility we have to prepare for. If we have go bags prepared, those will also need N95 masks. If not, then it may be time to consider preparing one for your family because based on what is happening around us, almost anything can happen. Because based on how our government is responding, its going to be every man for himself once calamities strike.*  

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