Severe, dense smog forces schools, workplaces to close in Philippine capital, affecting millions

Heavy smog in the Philippine capital on Friday forced authorities to suspend classes at all levels in the sprawling metropolis, government agencies said.

Mayors from 16 cities and one town in metropolitan Manila sent millions of students home due to the smog, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Some government offices also suspended work, while a number of cities ordered schools and work cancelled until Saturday, the authority said.

Authorities also urged people to stay indoors or wear masks.

The smog affecting metropolitan Manila was due to pollution from heavy vehicular traffic, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said.

Philippines’ Taal Volcano eruption triggers dozens of quakes, mass evacuation

The smog was initially blamed on emissions from Taal Volcano, just south of Manila, but the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also refuted the observation.

“The smog is not related to Taal Volcano,” Phivolcs said in an update. “Instead, the vog [volcanic smog] was over areas on the Western side of Taal Volcano.”

The vog was “not going toward Metro Manila,” it added.

Taal Volcano has been exhibiting increased restiveness since June.

On Thursday, it produced steam plumes rising 2,400 metres and sulphur dioxide emissions of more than 4,500 tons.

A plane flies through the smog shrouding Taguig city, Philippines. Photo: EPA-EFE

The volcano remains on Alert Level 1 in a five-rung scale which means that the threat of an eruptive activity has not ceased, according to an advisory from the Philippines’ volcanology institute on Friday.

Taal is one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes and last erupted in March 2022. The last major eruption was in January 2020, which displaced nearly 400,000 people.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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