By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA -- Amid Mayon Volcano’s restiveness, Department of Tourism (DOT) informed tourists that Legazpi City, where the active volcano is situated, is safe and secure.
“Legazpi, where Mayon Volcano is situated, is safe. If the plane arrives, it’s safe, it’s only when there’s no plane that it becomes a problem,” DOT-Region V Director Benjamin Santiago told reporters on the sidelines of the Anahaw-Philippine Sustainable Tourism Certification launch in Manila.
“You can view Mayon from very safe sites but not on the eight-kilometer danger zone. Basically, you’re safe and you can enjoy all activities except the ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rides,” he added, when asked what message he has for local and foreign tourists having second thoughts about visiting Albay.
Authorities established an exclusion zone around the volcano and have evacuated surrounding communities after Mayon began erupting on January 13.
Santiago said there is a minimal decrease in arrivals. “Overall, wala namang masyadong galaw, may pumupunta naman doon na mga media, humanitarian volunteers, so marami but for now sabihin natin na mixed or equal, may nawala may nadagdag.”
For his part, Santiago is optimistic about the increasing awareness of Mayon’s existence. “Mayon is like a product and I think overall with the (increased) awareness, mare-recoup yung nawala.”
The official said the eastern side is safe since ashfall cascades on the southwestern part of the area. Converging promotion and need for humanitarian assistance, he floated the idea of VolunTourism and urged visitors to go as volunteers in helping the local community affected by the eruption.
For Danilo Intong, director of DOT-Office of Tourism Standards and Regulation, this provides space for a refocus on what tourism currently means in Albay given Mayon had been actively reintroducing herself.
“(The) Mayon Volcano eruption, it’s somehow a negative thing in tourism development if you look at it in a macro level but if we look into it, we can change this negative phenomena into something positive,” he told reporters during the same occasion.
“This happened to Region 8 also when they were hampered by (Typhoon) Haiyan,” he said. “What we did is a noble act, (promotion of) volunteerism and rehabilitation.”