My Freeman column for Wednesday Jan.15,2020

SHOOTING STRAIGHT                                                     BY BOBIT AVILA


 Thank God that despite the havoc that the Taal Volcano eruption has caused in Batangas and most parts of Metro Manila, flights have resumed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and therefore allowed many stranded passengers to return to Metro Manila while at the same time, tourists that flew through NAIA to celebrate the Sinulog Festival can now come to Cebu in time for the Sinulog Festivities.

As I predicted, a huge portion of the population of Metro Manila protected themselves from respiratory diseases that could result from the ash fall spewed by Taal Volcano, so millions rushed to the drugstores since Sunday to buy facemasks. This sudden increase in demand and scarce supply prompted some stores to jack up prices.

There’s been a high demand for N95 masks, thus the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)recommended setting limits per customer and ordered monitoring of retail prices.The DTI said it would continue to monitor prices of basic necessities and prime commodities to ensure no unwarranted price increases. We gathered that the price of an ordinary surgical mask, which was sold at P30 per box before the volcano erupted, went up to as high as P100.This is profiteering of the worse kind! There have been reports that the price of an N95 mask rose to P200.

Many pharmacists from popular drugstore said they have run out of stock since Sunday afternoon, or hours after the volcano erupted. I also got a text that we in Cebu should send face masks to Metro Manila…however I know for a fact that many Cebuanos have started purchasing face masks just in case the prevailing winds move southward and the ashes of Taal Volcano would strike us in Metro Cebu… just like the days when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and its ashes reached us here.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said they suggested to retailers to ration or limit the purchase of masks per customer. Apart from the prices of facemasks, the DTI will continue to monitor the prices of basic and prime commodities. Sec. Lopez said prices of these basic goods should remain unchanged from the suggested retail price (SRP) bulletin published in September. Goods covered by the SRP list are basic necessities such as canned sardines, milk, coffee, bread, instant noodles, salt, detergent soap, bottled water and candles. Also part of the SRP list are prime commodities such as luncheon meat, meat loaf, corned beef, beef loaf, vinegar, patis or fish sauce, soy sauce, as well as toilet soap and batteries.

Meanwhile the Department of Health (DOH) is bracing for a possible surge in respiratory and eye disease following the eruption of Taal Volcano.

All DOH hospitals in Calabarzon [Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon] have been placed on blue alert, while those in the National Capital Region are under white alert as reported by DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo. I hope that those hospitals can ensure that their logistics and manpower are adequate and ready when the need arises. Unlike here in Cebu where the private hospitals have to shutdown several floors due to lack of nurses.

            Meanwhile perhaps due to the scarcity of facemasks in many medical stores, my friends in Facebook have issued a warning that facemasks cannot prevent the real ashes from entering your respiratory tract. Someone even said that the air quality of Metro Manila is today even better than the New Year’s Day celebration. This is why he suggests that the residents of Metro Manila may use ordinary surgical masks or layers of cloth to cover their nose and mouth. He added that ash fall might contain harmful particles like silicon, which can be harmful especially to those who have respiratory condition.  

When inhaled, the silicon can be accumulated in the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring. This is really true.

            The DOH also suggested that smoke and small particles with sulfur could irritate the mucosal membrane of the body, like the eyes. It can irritate your eyes quite badly; this is why people are advised to wash their eyes with clean and cold water immediately once dust gets into them. Rubbing the eyes is not advisable as ash could damage the cornea.

            Meanwhile I haven’t seen the latest videos of the volcanic activity in Taal Volcano except for a video footage that showed the damage of the hotels and resorts in Tagaytay City, which have been covered by grey ash. U suggests that Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) be more specific as to what is happening with the Taal Volcano at this time.

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