Christmas came early for the 91 quarry operators around Mayon Volcano in Albay province after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) lifted the suspension orders on their operations.
In justifying its decision, MGB said there is a need to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels around Mayon Volcano in Albay province.
MGB director Wilfredo Moncano said the 91 quarry operators were found to be “compliant” following a probe conducted by the MGB-led task force earlier formed by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.
Moncano said the same investigation revealed that only 15 out of 106 suspended quarry operators had permit violations.
According to Moncano, there is a compelling need to lift the suspension order in so far as the “compliant” quarry firms are concerned.
“An increased rate of quarrying is needed to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels so that when the rain comes with eroded material from the slopes of Mayon Volcano, the restored river channel can serve as the pathway to accommodate and remobilize the eroded material,” Moncano said.
He said these companies may be allowed to continue their operations, subject to strict monitoring under the terms and conditions of their existing permits.
At the same time, Moncano dismissed claims that quarrying operations around Mayon Volcano were largely to blame for the lahar flooding that buried some 180 houses and killed at least six people at the height of Super Typhoon Rolly.
He pointed out that lahar flow has “always been a likely occurrence in Mount Mayon whenever there’s heavy rainfall, thus making the houses near the active volcano naturally prone to mudflows.”
“The quarrying has an insignificant contribution to the lahar flow devastation caused by Super Typhoon Rolly because it was a combination of the huge volume of water, combined with stocked lahar that came from the slope and foot of Mayon Volcano,” he added.
Meanwhile, Moncano said his office would forward to the Environmental Management Bureau the case of the 15 erring quarry operators for “technical review and possible sanction or payment of penalty.”