MANILA — Authorities will inspect stores in Manila following reports that the price of face masks spiked as a volcano south of the capital threatened to erupt, Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan said Monday.
Taal Volcano, a popular tourist attraction set in the center of a picturesque lake, spewed on Sunday a massive ash cloud that drifted across parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, forcing the cancellation of flights and closure of schools and government offices.
Lacuna-Pangan said her office received complaints that N95 masks were being sold for P200, up from the previous P25 to P30, prompting her to order the the city's permits bureau and licenses office to check retailers.
"Huwag naman po natin gamitin ang panahon na ito para manamantala. Tandaan po natin, delikado po sa kalusugan nila ito," she said in a statement.
"Ayaw ko pong makakita ng pasyenteng may asthma na itinakbo sa ospital dahil lang hindi siya makahanap o makabili ng mask," she added.
(Let's not use this time to take advantage of others. Let's remember, this is dangerous to the health. We don't want asthma patients to be rushed to the hospital just because they cannot find or afford masks.)
Volcanic ash can trigger difficulty in breathing, coughs, eye and throat irritation, said the Manila Public Information Office, which shared tips on how to avoid inhaling the pyroclastic material.
The institute raised the danger level posed by the volcano to 4 out of a possible 5 - meaning "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days."
The Philippines lies on the "Ring of Fire," a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.
One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past 5 centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.
With a report from Reuters