TRADE OFFICIALS urged industries at risk from Taal Volcano to firm up their contingency planning, with provisions for relocating operations and evacuating staff if necessary.

Trade undersecretary and Board of Investments (BoI) managing head Ceferino Rodolfo said in a statement Monday that the private sector must have a minimum set of plans and communicate with their local governments.

“It should, at the least, cover communication protocols from the management to staff including legitimate sources of information, efficient movement of people in the plant to safer areas, standard procedures on utilities dependent on the risk involved and access to roads and ports (air and sea) for movement of raw materials and final goods,” he said.

“Notwithstanding any lowering of alert level on Taal Volcano, we encourage the private sector and other relevant agencies to continue the dialogue and agree on a contingency plan for any eventuality.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Jan. 26 lowered the alert level to 3 from 4 — indicating a reduced risk for hazardous eruption. The volcano is still deemed a risk for hazardous eruptions, earthquakes, gas emissions, and ashfall.

Trade officials met with industry representatives from the power, infrastructure, logistics, and manufacturing industries to discuss contingency planning. Also present were representatives from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Delivering presentations were Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Texas Instruments Phils., Inc. and the EMS Group, which shared their business continuity plans.

Mr. Rodolfo said that most companies in the region affected by Taal had resumed operations two days after the initial phreatic eruption on Jan. 12.

“Industrial parks in affected areas encountered power interruptions except for those using underground transmission cables where power supply remained stable. The affected companies operated using their generation sets that powered at least 70% of their equipment,” he said.

“They have fuel reserves equivalent to two days of operation. The companies had to spend a day cleaning the ash in the factory premises and another day to test the equipment and ensure its sound operation. On the third day, almost 90% of businesses resumed operations.” — Jenina P. Ibañez