Taal eruption may disrupt vaccine deliveries, economic recovery -- Villanueva

Senator Joel Villanueva said Friday, July 2, urged the government to prepare the necessary funds and contingency measures to avert any possible effects of the eruption of Taal Volcano to the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines and the efforts to reopen the economy.

Senator Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines)

Villanueva warned that Taal Volcano’s eruption could result in several events, “from a NAIA closure that will delay vaccine shipments, to factories in the country’s manufacturing belt suspending work."

He said the January 12, 2020 eruption of Taal Volcano should serve as a preview on how “the world’s smallest active volcano can cause big damage in places beyond its immediate danger zone.”

He recalled the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Clark Airport in Pampanga, which affected over 100,000 passengers.

“If that happens again, heaven forbid, what’s our Plan B for flights carrying imported vaccines? And how will we dispatch vaccines to provinces because we’re using Manila as a base,” he said.

The Senate labor committee chairman also raised concern over its economic effects, as “it comes at a time when factories are restarting their operations" following the coronavirus outbreak. He noted the economic zones in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna and Cavite.

Tourism and services will also be affected, he said, with Tagaytay and other areas in Cavite and Batangas being the "nearest rest and recreation place" from Metro Manila.

“'Yong ashfall ng Taal nakakapuwing talaga 'yan: Sa ekonomiya, sa transportasyon, at sa negosyo ng mga lugar na medyo may kalayuan na,” the senator said.

In the meantime, Villanueva suggested to the government to prepare the P6.37-billion Quick Reaction Fund in the 2021 national budget to assist residents who will be displaced anew by the volcano's unrest.

He said local government units do not have enough resources to confront “a double whammy, a double V: virus and volcano.”

“From a planning perspective, let’s assume the worst-case scenario, and be proactive in anticipating the needs of affected residents...Ihanda na po natin ang ayuda para sa mga posibleng madi-displace mula sa kanilang mga tahanan (Let's prepare the assistance to be given to those who will be displaced from their homes),” Villanueva appealed.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert status over Taal Volcano to Level 3 after it spewed a kilometer-high phreatomagmatic plume on Thursday, afternoon July 1. The state seismology agency warned of a stronger eruption of the volcano.