EDITORIAL: Be Gentle With Mayon

February 6, 2020


Superficially the high ranking officials of Albay  province, including Legaspi City, are in unison about the proposed lighting of Mount Mayon. A closer look however shows nothing  is further from the truth.

Legaspi City Mayor Noel Rosal, concurrent chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council and Elizaldy  Co, Ako Bikol Partylist  representative, favor the project. But Albay Governo Al Francis Bichara is not that sold out to it to the point of  even claiming that due to the opposition and concern that the project will destroy the volcano’s biodiversity, it should be put on hold first.

Even Eduardo “Ed” Laguerta, former  resident volcanologist of the Institute of  Philippine Volcanology and Seismology pointed out that  lighting the volcano which attracts tourists (because of its almost perfect cone), will affect its biodiversity.

It appears then than that the choice is between lighting Mayon for tourism purposes given that the project is a “game changer” and  prioritizing biodiversity for environmental purposes.

Mayon is in itself a thing of beauty. It has  no need for man-made artificial features just to attract tourists. Besides, a volcano has its own reason for being. Tourists would not come just for the simple purpose of seeing an iconic site duly lighted. That is rather too naive and fact being a mere copy cat.

Once man over exploits a volcano, nature responds violently without any warning. Tinkering with nature just for tourism purposes is  a low brainer. It overlooks the fact that people   inhabit its surroundings and for that matter make a living from it primarily for agri- industrial ventures.

Tourists come and go. Even the projected  operationalization of the Bicol International Airport is no guarantee at all that tourism in the entire region will grow dramatically once Mayon is lighted. At the end of the day, the most important tourist attraction is the people  inhabiting an area. Focus therefore should be on the economic plight of the locals.

Incidentally, Mt. Mayon’s foot is found not only in Legaspi City. Parts of it are located in districts of Albay province which are not within the jurisdiction of Legaspi. On this score alone, Bichara has every reason to put on hold the lighting project. Albay includes Legaspi City, the latter being not yet a highly urbanized city.

 Geographically and politically Albay includes Legaspi. It is not true on the reverse. As to Ako Bikol Partylist representative Co, lighting only  Mayon  discriminates upon other tourist sites of the region. The party list is of national constituency, no need for him to be reminded about it.

Without being officious about it, Rosal and Co should rather focus first on the most pressing  need of Legaspi and its  immediate surroundings—safe drinking water. No matter how beautiful  may Mayon may be, eventually  tourists will be turned off upon having an unsafe supposed to be potable water.

The bitter lesson of the recent Taal Volcano eruption is too fresh to be treated dismissively. From a distance it looked very beautiful. For this reason  tourists trooped and trekked to its very tip. Look what happened. After several decades of slumber, Taal erupted violently and drove away folks making a living out of  nature’s gift—the volcano’s fertile soil.

May God forbid, this could happen  to Mayon Volcano, a child of nature. Expectedly, tourists will out of curiosity,  come to see the outcome, sometimes distribute relief goods, pose for posterity  and then go elsewhere.

Left to fend for themselves are the locals. Be gentle with Mayon  before  Mother Nature vents its ire against the humans for ignoring habitat concerns and giving way to artificiality.

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