Fit enough to visit affected areas? Duterte says he'll 'eat ashfall, pee on Taal Volcano'

MANILA, Philippines – Despite warnings from his doctor about the potential hazard of volcanic ashfall, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would visit communities affected by the Taal Volcano eruption on Tuesday, January 14.

Duterte, in his first public appearance since the Taal Volcano started erupting on Sunday, January 12, was asked if he was fit enough to visit areas affected by ashfall.

"Kainin ko pa 'yang ashfall na 'yan, pati 'yang Taal ihian ko 'yan, bwisit na 'yan (I’ll eat that ashfall, even Taal, I’ll pee on it, goddamn it)," Duterte said on Monday, January 13. 

Gesturing to the inhaler strung around his neck, he said, "I've been warned by my doctor to be careful because this device cannot control the ashes. After many years of smoking, my lungs are affected."

Duterte said this much to reporters after the awarding of the Order of Lapu-Lapu to soldiers who served in Marawi on Monday, January 13. During the ambush interview, he said he would visit people affected by the Taal Volcano eruption on Tuesday.

Because of health problems, Duterte has had to skip several official engagements and has been out of the public eye for several weeklong periods. The President has admitted to a slew of ailments, including previous spinal issues caused by past motorcycle accidents.

The Taal Volcano in Batangas remained under Alert Level 4 on Monday, as it spewed lava fountains amid the threat of a hazardous eruption.

To date, at least 24,508 people have fled their homes in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite, with evacuees scattered in at least 75 evacuation centers. 

Price cap on face masks

Duterte also said he wants to set a limit on the prices of face masks after reports of people hiking up prices of the protective gear.  

Concerned Filipinos took to social media Monday to express frustration over people taking advantage of the calamity to make a profit out of the protective gear. N95 masks are respirators that block out at least 95% of very small particles. They usually cost only P25 to P30, but some were seen selling them for as high as P200.

"I am not surprised because these businessmen, if the demand is high, then the prices go up. Or the worst thing they can do [is] if they have enough supplies and they're selling it at prohibitive prices," Duterte said.  

He said he would meet with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to discuss setting a price limit on the item. 

It is the Department of Trade and Industry, however, that is in charge of price concerns. The agency issued a statement Monday saying it would "not hesitate to file administrative and criminal charges" against those found to be selling face masks at hiked prices.  

The City of Manila began its crackdown on stores allegedly selling overpriced anti-particle masks. The Manila Bureau of Permits has been ordered to look into reports of hiked prices.

Aside from possible revocation of permits, the Consumer Act's Section 52 bans unfair or unconscionable sales act or practice, prohibiting sellers from exploiting buyers based on "physical or mental infirmity, ignorance, illiteracy, lack of time or the general conditions of the environment or surroundings.”

Violators can be fined from P500 to P10,000 or be imprisoned from 5 months to a year. – Rappler.com