Batangas distributes face masks as Taal volcano smog affects residents, students

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 22) — The local government of Batangas is distributing thousands of N95 face masks and pulse oximeters to its residents to ensure they are protected from the hazardous volcanic smog or vog caused by the degassing activity of Taal Volcano located in the province.

Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste said 26 municipalities located in the western portion of the province are most affected by the vog.

"Nagiingat ang mga tao dito. Marami akong napapansing nagsusuot ng face mask," Leviste told CNN Philippines' "Balitaan."

[Translation: People here are being cautious. I see many residents wearing face masks.]

He also gave an update on the 40 students who were brought to various hospitals in Tuy, Batangas after complaining of chest tightness, dizziness, and itchy throats due the volcanic smog.

Leviste said the affected students used nebulizers to help them breathe better and some have been discharged from the hospital.

Meanwhile, businesses in Tagaytay, Cavite — located near the Taal Volcano — are taking a hit due to the poor air quality and nearly zero visibility in the tourist destination.

"The guests didn’t expect that it will get this bad. So, since last night, we have a couple of guests already asking for refunds because they want to get out of here. They understand the health risk of the situation," said Rainier Mesa, a staff in a hotel in Tagaytay.

Despite the health risks, the disaster management office of Tagaytay encouraged tourists with good health to push through with their plans but observe health precautions.

"Sa mga turista naman po, you are all welcome dito sa Tagaytay na bumisita. You will enjoy your stay here surely. Just please wear face masks," Tagaytay City Disaster Risk and Management Officer Clyde Yayong said.

Vog, an acidic gas which can severely irritate the eyes, throat, and respiratory tract, is particularly harmful to individuals with asthma, lung disease, heart disease, the elderly, pregnant women, and children.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on Friday that vog persists over Taal Volcano after a pronounced upwelling of hot volcanic fluids in the main crater lake was observed.

It adds Taal Volcano emitted 4,569 tonnes of sulfur dioxide on Thursday.

Taal remains on Alert Level 1 which means the volcano is on low-level unrest.

CNN Philippines correspondent Daniza Fernandez contributed to this report.