Residents shovel mud and clear debris in an area where houses were buried by boulders and lahar washed from the slopes of Mayon Volcano in the village of Cagsawa in Daraga town, Albay province, after Super Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 1. (Photo: Charism Sayat/AFP)

By Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Nov 4 2020

Quest for sand, gravel around Mayon Volcano ‘made it easier for Typhoon Goni to wreak destruction’

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has blamed quarrying for deadly mudslides in southern Luzon caused by Super Typhoon Goni.

Bishop Joel Baylon of Legaspi said authorities should investigate ongoing quarrying activities around Mayon Volcano in Albay province that “mostly” contributed to the mudslides that buried at least 300 houses on Nov. 1.

The mudslides came amid the Category 5 tropical storm that packed winds of around 220kph and brought torrential rain and widespread damage to Albay province and other parts of the country.

At least 20 people were confirmed dead in the storm, many of them in the Albay mudslides.

“We see many things that should be given attention, especially ongoing quarrying on the slopes of Mayon Volcano, that might be partly responsible for a large amount of lahar flowing down,” Bishop Baylon said in an interview.

Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines, is a popular tourist spot due to its “perfect cone” or symmetric conical shape.

The surrounding area is a national park but quarrying for sand and gravel also takes place there.

Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu said he had ordered the suspension of all quarrying activities around the volcano.

He said there were at least 11 mining firms in the area using backhoes to extract sand and gravel from along the volcano’s major gullies.

Bishop Baylon, however, said that although the typhoon’s wrath was uncontrollable, its effects could have been mitigated.

“While there is not much we can do with nature’s wrath, recent studies on the frequency and increasing intensity of typhoons and their effects seem to point to human activity as partly responsible. I believe in that aspect there is more to be done,” he said.

“While we may not have the power nor resources to lessen a typhoon’s intensity, I have the capacity to do small things that can mitigate unnecessary destruction when disasters come, especially in cutting trees and quarrying.”

Bishop Baylon also reminded government agencies to take note of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ in taking care of the environment.

“These [disasters] are reminders for government agencies, but the irresponsible cutting of trees is still happening. We don’t have much forested areas. We cannot stop Mother Nature, but we can lessen the destruction and deaths if we become more responsible in the way we deal with things,” he said. – UCANews