Metro Manila residents may have spotted on Monday the thick haze that hovered over the region and turned the sunset a pale red-orange.
Some speculated that the cover was caused by Taal Volcano continuously spewing volcanic smog or “vog” a kind of air pollution that tends to reach distances, and is toxic when inhaled.
Photos shot by Greenpeace Philippines show a broad blanket of gray that made Metro Manila look something straight out of a dystopian movie.
However, this is apparently not the case, as clarified by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology or PHIVOLCS. On Tuesday morning, the science institute issued a statement that the seeming smokescreen was actually caused by an alarming volume of smog caused by “human activities.” This is despite its earlier advisory about the increasing level of volcanic sulfur dioxide being released from Taal Volcano’s caldera on Monday afternoon.
“Paglilinaw: Ang malabong kapaligiran o “haze” na naranasan sa Metro Manila ay “smog” o dulot ng polusyun galing sa “human activities” at HINDI galing sa Taal Volcano,” the agency’s brief post read.
PHIVOLCS didn’t expound on what is meant by “human activities,” it still advises the general public to wear a mask, preferably the N95 variant, and remain indoors to avoid inhaling the toxic smog.
PHIVOLCS also advised areas living around Taal Lake to “take necessary precautions” should the volcano’s sulfur dioxide emission persists, as it is “acidic and can cause irritation of the eyes, throat, and respiratory tract in severities depending on the gas concentrations and durations of exposure.
Last March 9, PHIVOLCS raised Taal Volcano to Alert Level 2, citing “increasing unrest” and “probable magmatic activity that may or may not lead to an eruption.” The institute reiterated the same warning on Monday, reminding the public that there could be “sudden steam- or gas-driven explosions” and “lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas,” which would put communities residing near Taal Volcano Island at risk.