Stop Capitalizing Calamities: Safety Is A Right, Not A Privilege



Doused with ash and mud, residents in the province of Batangas fled from their homes, carrying only what they can to survive as the Taal Volcano spewed a cloud of ash last Sunday and red hot lava on Monday.

About 8000 residents living around the Taal Volcano were evacuated from the danger zone, leaving behind their livelihood, their homes, and even their farm animals. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the danger level to a 4 out of 5–meaning hazardous explosive eruption is imminent within days.

As the ash fall blew north, reaching as far as the Manila capital, panic-stricken buyers headed down to the nearest drug store, hoping to buy face masks to avoid inhaling air filled with tiny volcanic ash particles. Cars were covered with ash so thick, you could sink your finger into them.

With social media being just an arm’s length, information was readily available; how inhaling the sulfuric ash could lead to lung problems, how people were scrambling desperately to find anything that would keep them safe, updates everywhere, and fake news all around causing more panic.

Companies, stores, capitalists, however, are taking advantage of that. Circulating around the Internet, people are posting photos and tweets about selling N95 masks, a particular kind of mask that filters out dust particles like volcanic ash, at a price four times higher than the original retail because it’s sold out everywhere.

Medicine brands are trend jacking, posting about their product—practically patting themselves on the back for commercializing a calamity. And then there are Internet clout chasers, editing their Taal photos in Lightroom while some put KiraKira filters on their photos.

Meanwhile, people who are closely affected by the eruption are outside, helping the passing vehicles by throwing water at their windshields, small vendors are giving up a day of earning to provide food for evacuees, even kids—who should be safely in their shelters—are helping remove volcanic ashes at gas stations, unbeknownst of the hazardous effects of having contact with it, all for a few coins that could get them by for the coming days.

This is poverty driving literal children into service labor in the face of calamity, and yet, instead of using their budget, the government is asking for donations.

Why is it that people with fewer means care more than the capitalists who could actually provide and help? Are we so inhumane that we reason out how selling at a higher price is just ‘supply and demand’, economics, and whatnot, at a time like this where people are dying, in danger, stranded, and afraid?

Given the delayed reaction by our government and the selfishness we pervaded from this natural disaster, it’s terrifying to think how unprepared we are in the face of danger. So, unless we make changes, the only question we can ask is, how much longer can we survive?

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