Sulfur dioxide from Taal spread to NCR and other provinces, Phivolcs clarifies with new data

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) — Citing new data, state volcanologists on Wednesday said there is evidence that the volcanic sulfur dioxide from Taal Volcano spread to Metro Manila and nearby provinces, causing hazy skies this week.

The clarification came a day after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said human-made pollution was the source of the haze despite recording the highest sulfur dioxide (S02) emission from the restive volcano.

"Our Institute had initially negated these observations due to the lack of substantiating evidence," it said in a statement.

"In view of the scientific data from the satellite platforms, the DOST-PHIVOLCS stands to acknowledge evidence of the actual wider extents that volcanic SO2 have actually spread over the NCR and adjoining provinces," it also said.

The web portals for NASA’s Ozone Mapping Instrument (OMI) on the Aura platform and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership Satellite reported that SO2 plumes spread over Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, and the National Capital Region on Monday and Tuesday.

Phivolcs took responsibility for its earlier statements that led to confusion, saying it "gives credence to the many observations" of the public.

Volcanic smog may cause health problems such as irritation of the eyes, throat, and respiratory tract. The severity of the effects depends on the gas concentrations and duration of exposure.

Meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense-National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Operations Service Director Raffy Alejandro said authorities are continuously monitoring the situation in Taal Volcano.

He added that authorities are also closely monitoring the towns of Agoncillo, Lemery, San Nicolas, and Talisay in Batangas, as they are the areas closest to the volcano’s caldera.

Citing a report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Alejandro said the air quality in Metro Manila has slightly improved compared to conditions in the past few days.

“Nag-improve na ang quality dito sa Metro Manila compared noong June 28...Nagbibigay pa rin tayo ng abiso sa mga LGUs (local government units) na mag-monitor,” Alejandro told CNN Philippines’ News.PH.

[Translation: The air quality here in Metro Manila has improved compared to last June 28...We are still advising the LGUs to monitor their areas.]

To stay protected, CNN Philippines' Dr. Freddie Gomez advised the public on Wednesday to stay indoors or use a protective mask when going outside. He also reminded those in the affected areas to stay hydrated.

Alert Level 2 (or increased unrest) prevails over Taal Volcano. This means the threat of sudden steam or gas-driven explosions and lethal accumulations or expulsion of volcanic gas may occur anytime and threaten areas within the Taal Volcano Island.