Wednesday, April 8, 2015

No permit, no climbing on active volcanoes

With the onset of summer, mountain climbing and other related activities are again expected to peak, prompting a lawmaker to urge the enactment of a law prohibiting such unauthorized activities on active volcanoes.

Mayon Volcano
Photo: albay.gov.ph
“Mountain climbing and other activities may only be permitted upon authorization of the government and a clearance from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS),” AKO Bicol Party-list lawmakers stressed.

Rep. Christopher S. Co and Rep. Rodel M. Batocabe are authors of HB 733 “prohibiting mountaineering and other activities on active volcanoes” or the proposed “Anti-Volcano Climbing Act.”

Co and Batocabe cited an instance on May 7, 2013 when five people died while trying to climb Mount Mayon, an active volcano in Legaspi, Albay (Bicol). During their climbing attempt, Mayon volcano exploded and spewed ash.

The unfortunate climbers included four German tourists and their Filipino tour guide. Seven others were injured, including four Thai citizens.

According to the authors, PHIVOLCS maintained that Mayon was in no danger of erupting but reminded the public not to venture into a six-kilometer permanent danger zone. The agency said steam or phreatic eruption is normal for active volcanoes like Mayon. Phreatic eruption is an explosion caused by ground water coming into contact with ascending magma (as in a volcano).

“However, it is evident that mountain climbers are not mindful of the dangers, choosing to hike near the crater even if the danger of a volcano spewing ashes is just lurking around the corner,” the lawmakers pointed out.

The lawmaker also noted that because of the boom in the tourism industry, several companies and organizations have been formed that organize travel tours to different locations in the Philippines.

“The proliferation of these companies and the rapid development of the industry itself have made it more difficult for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to monitor the traffic to our tourist destinations and to maintain minimal impact on the ecological footprint. It is necessary to protect and maintain these areas for the benefit of more tourists and the people,” they said.

But most importantly, the lawmakers stressed that the primary concern of government should be the safety of its citizens and tourists who have come to the Philippines to see and experience its attractions, like the world famous “perfect cone” of Mt. Mayon.

“The potential fatalities and injuries that may result from allowing leisure and recreational climbers surpass the demand for a tourism industry to boom in areas where there are active volcanoes,” they stressed.

Under the HB 733, the penalty of a fine of not less than P10,000.00 but not more than P50,000.00 shall be imposed upon any person who shall conduct any mountaineering activities on active volcanoes within a ten (10) kilometer radius from the crater, except if such activity is under the direct supervision and control of the DENR and authorized by the PHIVOLCS, and only for educational, academic and research purposes.

If the violator is a partnership, firm, corporation, association or any other organization, the officer and/or the organizers of the activity who know or should have known the commissions of the offense shall be liable.

The PHIVOLCS shall issue a written authorization to any natural or juridical persons to claim an exception to this Act upon the submission of documents showing the purpose for which the climb is to be undertaken, the list of the members of the team who will make the climb which shall not be less than four 94) members, a list of the officers and/or organizers of the climb, if different from the team members, and payment of required fees.

The team shall report to the nearest DENR office or ranger Station before and after the climb, among other provisions of the proposed Act.

The bill is pending with the Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Rep. Francisco T. Matugas (1st District, Surigao del Norte). (PNA)
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