Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mt. Mayon calm for Le Tour Filipinas

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- Mt. Mayon, one of the most active volcanoes in the country, will be composed when Le Tour Filipinas arrives here Saturday and race around its base on Sunday.

The volcano’s calm status was declared by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) last week after placing it on a restive mood -- categorized from as high as alert level 3, then down to levels 2 and 1 later within a period of more than a year starting in the late parts of 2014 up to the whole of 2015.

That restless stage declaration triggered mass evacuations of 133,325 persons representing 28,081 families residing in 66 barangays of three cities and four municipalities around the foot of the volcano who were the population at risk as declared by the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) should violent eruptions take place.

No major eruption, however, happened and last Feb. 12, the Phivolcs lowered alert 1 to 0, a status that indicates a “normal” condition in Mayon’s seismic activities after the observational parameters have returned to baseline levels and no magmatic eruption is foreseen in the immediate future.

This nil alert level advisory means that movements around Mayon, considered as the world’s most perfect cone-shaped active stratovolcano, rising 2,462 meters or nearly 2.5 kilometers over Albay province, is now safe for human movements even as caution is advised against sediment-laden stream and lahar flows in valleys and active river channels during heavy rainfall.

The advisory added that mountain climbers may now venture into the Mayon slope, but not into the crater, provided they register with the Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office while orchids gathering down the woods of the volcano and tourist activities such as ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rides, camping and visit of the Mayon Skyline Park and Resthouse are already allowed.

And so, the cyclists, race officials, visitors and spectators expect Mayon to be a well-composed scenic backdrop for the Le Tour Filipinas, the only Philippine cycling tournament duly sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, Philippine Cycling Federation, and Asian Cycling Federation as a yearly professional road bicycle race.

First staged in Luzon in 1955 before carrying its current name, the race’s previous names included the Tour of Luzon, Marlboro Tour and Tour ng Pilipinas.

Now on its 7th Edition, the race whose starting gun was fired in Antipolo City Thursday is composed of four stages to travel a total of 691 kilometers with the 153-kilometer first stage of mountainous road terrain passing through the towns of Baras, Pililla, Siniloan, Pangil, Lumban, Pagsanjan and Lucban, ending in Lucena City in the afternoon of the same day.

About a hundred professional cyclists composing the 15 competing teams -- 12 of them from abroad -- responded to the starting gun, race officials said.

This is the first time that the race heads to Bicol in seven years and bikers’ teams from the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Netherlands, Belarus, Taiwan, Laos and Luxembourg are seeing action in the Category 2.2 race.

The Philippine teams joining the tournament are the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Team and the Philippine National Squad.

The second stage on Friday will be from Lucena City via the Maharlika Highway through the famous “3M” zigzag climb in Atimonan, Quezon to the historic town of Daet, Camarines Norte’s provincial capital from where the third stage of 187 kilometers to this city will take off the next day.

The fourth and final stage will be a double out-and-back course of 147-kilometers from the city and through the paved road around Mt. Mayon passing through the two other Albay cities of Tabaco and Ligao and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo.

“We are now ready for the arrival and staging of the race here and around the volcano as setting of road security, traffic management and crowd control measures; hotel room reservations, night tours around the city’s tourism sites and welcome and see off activities for the visitors, among other things needed to make their coming more memorable, are already in place,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Friday said.

He said the excitement among the cyclists, race crewmen and officials over the race’s coming to Legazpi for Mt. Mayon is overwhelming.

“However, we are going to show them that the city now is not only for the breathtaking view of the volcano’s magically-configured perfect cone but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities, mouth-watering cuisine and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” according to Rosal.

They will also find out that the city, which is home to warm and hospitable people, is already a world-class metropolis that caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers, the city mayor said.

The city’s air and coastal waters are certified “clean” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while the local police consider the peace, order and security prevailing over its communities as stable and manageable, he noted.

The city is also recognized now as a “convention capital” owing to its attractiveness as venue of sport competitions and big formal gatherings such as international conventions, conferences, meetings and reunions.

Antonio Reyes, the City Tourism Office chief, said the coming of Le Tour de Filipinas, which is expected to bring in hundreds of visitors, will be an addition to the count of arrivals in the city for this year.

The 7th Le Tour de Filipinas is supported not only by the city government but also by 7-Eleven, Smart Communications, Isuzu Philippines, Petron, Novo Nordisk, Phenom Athletic Apparel and Kopiko, among others. (PNA) JBP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS