Probe of quarrying operations in Albay sought

Published November 7, 2020, 4:11 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environment group Kalikasan has called for an independent investigation on the quarrying operations that allegedly caused the lahar flow in Guinobatan, Albay during the onslaught of super typhoon “Rolly” last week.

The group issued the call as presidential spokesperson Harry Roque downplayed the effects of quarrying as beneficial, despite the destruction it might have caused.

“The flow of lahar in the community of Barangay San Francisco in Guinobatan tells a tale of probable mismanagement, or even illegal quarrying activities, as some residents doubt that quarrying is not involved,” said Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce.

“While Gov. (Al Francis) Bichara claims that the lahar that submerged the village is not due to quarrying, no stone should be left unturned in checking if there was negligence or illegal activities in Mayon,” Dulce said.

“It’s about time the environmental ombudsman take a look at possible accountability in the non-implementation of laws, or failure of the government to mitigate the impact that displaced hundreds of families by the lahar flow,” he added.

Kalikasan noted that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology had warned of the chances of lahar in the province before Rolly plowed into Albay but Guinobatan was not included in the list of municipalities at risk.

The lahar from Mayon Volcano left hundreds of families homeless with millions of losses in livelihood.

For Kalikasan, considering the warnings issued by Phivolcs, the failure to implement strong measures to cushion the impact of natural disasters reflects the lack of planning of the Duterte administration.

Given the high vulnerability of the Philippines to climate-related disasters, the damages become bigger every time a calamity hits, it added.

“Under the Duterte administration, the country remains among the worst in climate vulnerability and refuses to learn from the mistakes of previous natural disasters. It raises urgency to respond to climate change, yet damages are never mitigated,” Dulce said.

“Until a solid plan to respond to climate change, including putting a premium on environmental conservation, this cycle of disasters will continue,” he added.