The urgent need to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels around Mayon Volcano in Albay province has prompted the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to recommend the lifting of suspension order against 91 quarry operators in the area.

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 have permit violations.
Cimatu earlier suspended all quarry operations around Mayon Volcano and formed a task force to look into the possible liability of quarry companies in the lahar flow during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly last month.

According to Moncano, there is a compelling need to lift the suspension order insofar 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 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 explained.

He said these companies may be allowed to continue their operations, subject to strict monitoring under the terms and conditions of their existing permits.

“These quarry firms were proven to have followed quarry regulations, such as not operating beyond their permit area and having an active Environmental Compliance Certificate,” Moncano said.

At the same time, Moncano dismissed claims that quarrying operations around Mayon Volcano was 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 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 will forward to the Environmental Management Bureau the case of the 15 erring quarry operators for “technical review and possible sanction or payment of penalty.”

He said immediate rehabilitation of the areas quarried by the violators will also be implemented. ###