By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu appealed to quarry companies operating within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone surrounding Mayon Volcano to stop risking the health and lives of their workers.
“It seems that these companies are more concerned with profits than the welfare of their workers who endure the punishing conditions at the mining sites amid the volcanic eruption,” Cimatu said.
He issued the statement following reports that quarry workers were still hauling sand and gravel materials within the danger zone despite warnings from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) that entry into the permanent danger zone is strictly prohibited.
DENR-Bicol Region had also called on the quarry operators to temporarily cease their operation due to safety concerns.
According to Cimatu, an erupting volcano could blast ash, lava, solid rocks, and gases into the air, creating hazards that could hurt or even kill people and destroy property.
“Our primordial concern must be the safety and health of all people affected by the eruption of Mayon Volcano,” Cimatu said.
He earlier warned against the negative impacts of volcanic gases, particularly sulfur dioxide, on the environment and human health.
He said that when sulfur dioxide combines with water and air, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain.
Acid rain can cause deforestation, acidify waterways to the detriment of aquatic life, and corrode building materials and paints, he said.
In terms of health, Cimatu said sulfur dioxide could affect the respiratory system, particularly lung function, and can irritate the eyes.