LEGAZPI CITY, May 28 (PNA) – The provincial government of Albay will make Mayon climbing and any other activities in the volcano a criminal offense.
Alarmed by the two latest Mayon incidents that resulted in the killing and wounding of foreigners and local mountaineers with the province bearing the blame, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda met with the provincial board last week.
The result of the meeting is a soon-to-be-enacted ordinance that will ban Mayon climbing and make violators criminally liable with at least one-year imprisonment.
Mayon climbing has been an open activity to anyone when it is under “0” alert level.
This condition has attracted foreign and local tourists despite an executive order declaring the area within Mayon’s six-kilometer radius a permanent danger zone.
It is not clear, however, if the more than 2,000 farmers tilling their farms daily near the foot of Mayon, which is very much inside the six-kilometer (km) permanent danger zone (PDZ), will be covered by the proposed ordinance.
Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office, said local mountaineers and tourist guides have already registered opposition to the proposed ordinance.
“We need the ordinance to ban Mayon climbing in support of the executive order declaring the six-kilometer permanent danger zone a 'no man’s land',” Daep said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has maintained that under the six-km PDZ order, there should be no human activity even the volcano is on “0” alert level status.
Phivolcs officials claimed that Mayon is a dangerous active volcano that may erupt anytime without showing signs or indications of erupting such as the phreatic type which cannot be traced by the sensitive volcano monitoring equipment and gadgets.
Mayon resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta warned that even during earthquakes, Mayon climbers are in danger of getting killed or hurt by rolling boulders.
On May 7, Mayon erupted without an earlier sign of danger coming.
There were 28 foreigners and local tourist guides at that time.
Four Germans and one tourist guide were killed while 8 others were wounded.
The incident prompted President Aquino to blame the provincial government of Albay, wondering why Mayon had become free for mountaineers with the declaration of the six-km PDZ.
Reports said the government spent more than a million to retrieve the casualties and rescue the survivors.
On May 21, another foreigner, a Russian national, jolted the province again when he sought help through a text message to a local resident, saying he was trapped, could not move, with his feet broken while at the Mayon slope estimated at 1,700 meters above the sea level.
The Russian national identified as Mark Yuchugaev, 28, reportedly sneaked into Mayon on May 19, using an untried route despite warning from local residents on the ban.
According to an official of the local Office of the Civil Defense, the two-day rescue of Yuchugaev cost the government more than P.5 million.
Former Legazpi mayor now city administrator Noel Rosal said the ordinance is needed.
He also cited the big eruption that occurred lunch time in 1993 where close to 80 farmers from five barangays in Legazpi were killed.
The farmers were tilling their farms near the foot of Mayon, which is very much inside the six-km PDZ.
Rosal said the 1993 eruption did not also have a sign or indication of abnormality, saying it was under “0” alert level status.
Phivolcs had described the 1993 and the latest eruption on May 7 as phreatic explosion.
Rosal disclosed that then Albay Gov. Romeo Salalima filed a class suit against Phivolcs for the death of the farmers who were not warned earlier by the agency of the eruption that lasted for almost a month.
But because of the existing order for a six- km PDZ, then President Fidel Ramos sided with Phivolcs, blaming the province for failure to impose the danger zone as “no man’s land.(PNA) HBC/FGS/MU/CBD