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Taal Volcano’s ashfall is not the time to make a profit

Taal Volcano’s sudden eruption over the weekend affected a lot of lives. From nearby towns to the already congested Metro Manila, the ashfall did more than disrupt our day-to-day routines. It forced thousands to evacuate, turning places like Agoncillo, Batangas into ghost towns, putting our flora and fauna’s safety at risk, and affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers. 

Calamities like these are a time for us to step up and be there for one another. This is a time where people in power and means should lend a hand. Instead, we’re given disaster capitalists exploiting people’s basic needs for easy cash.

Read more: The arrest of Panday Sining’s art activists should scare us

Everybody started panic buying after the eruption. And boy, did it bring out the worst in most of us. Face masks are now being sold for as high as 200 pesos around Manila, while in Batangas (a place heavily affected by the eruption) one drug store is selling N95s for 500 pesos. Keep in mind that the original price for these masks is just 25 to 30 pesos.  

This is a time where people in power and means should lend a hand. Instead, we’re given disaster capitalists exploiting people’s basic needs for easy cash. 

Relief goods are allegedly getting jacked-up prices as well. Yesterday, a volunteer for the Batangas relief drive had no choice but to buy overpriced canned goods in Quezon City. They reported how the prices at their local supermarkets hiked up overnight. A day after the eruption, cases of overpriced goods are everywhere. It got so bad that the Department of Trade and Industry released a quick statement, warning retailers regarding jacked-up goods. 

“Those found to have unreasonably increased their prices for gas masks, face masks and other similar items, which act is tantamount to profiteering, shall be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” their statement reads. “DTI will not hesitate to file administrative and criminal charges against unscrupulous business entities and individuals who capitalize on the consumers’ urgent need for their own profit.”

Unfortunately, this warning didn’t stop online opportunists from selling masks for 400 pesos. It also didn’t stop tone-deaf businesses from making insensitive promotional moves. A ramen shop in Tarlac actually photoshopped the eruption on their storefront just to announce store hours. Imagine thinking that this was an acceptable response to a calamity.

Read more: What the Taal volcano eruption could mean for neighboring areas

Businesses pulling moves straight out of Inhumans of Late Capitalism doesn’t stop there. Yesterday, GABRIELA and Bayan called out certain call-centers in Laguna for neglecting workers’ safety. “This is boundless greed without care for the worker’s health and safety,” writes Bayan-Laguna. “We urge all workers to exercise their right to refuse unsafe conditions. Do not let the audacity of these foreign capitalists go unchallenged.”

Now, you’re probably thinking: “Aren’t good samaritans out there handing face masks and donating goods?” Yes, there are good-hearted people helping out victims of the Taal Volcano eruption. Food vendors from Polytechnic University of the Philippines Batangas gave up a day of their income to feed evacuees, while others do their part by giving out free face masks and cleaning cars covered with ash. 

But here’s the thing—why are we letting good samaritans do all the work? Where are the people in charge? Where are the people with actual means to help out?

The Duterte administration called out to the public to donate for the calamity victims. Yet, the Philippine National Police allegedly bought overpriced speed guns, the Marines’ January babies are getting a P50,000 bonus, and the president just bragged about eating ashfall when he was simply asked if he can visit the Taal eruption’s affected areas.

Read more: What the Taal volcano eruption could mean for neighboring areas

As for folks stranded at NAIA, the country’s not-so-broke airport, gave away “Malasakit Kits” containing a laughable amount of crackers, bottled water, and some wet wipes. These kits cleverly summarize how much corporations really care about us—not a lot. 

Civilians stepping up aren’t a sign of Filipino resilience. It’s a sign that the people in power, officials whose job is to step up, are nowhere to be found. And people who are well-off enough to provide decide to think of profits instead.

But here’s the thing—why are we letting good samaritans do all the work? Where are the people in charge? 

Experts from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology say Taal Volcano will continue to show signs of activity this week. “As we speak, there are still earthquake events so we expect more activities in the next few days,” says PHILVOCS.

Let’s hope and pray that opportunists will slow down. Until then, we’re left with nothing but wishful thinking, blatant awareness, and no choice but to pick up after ourselves. Here are lists of groups where you can volunteer or give your donations too.

Art by Cathy Dizon

 

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Rogin Losa
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