Endangering public safety

Endangering public safety

Even as Taal Volcano continued manifesting unrest, crater glow was recorded in the country’s most active volcano. Scientists say the crater glow could indicate magma rising to the surface of Mayon Volcano in Legazpi, Albay.

Mayon has been on Alert Level 2 following its last eruption in 2018, meaning mild explosions and ashfall are possible. Despite its constant activity, or perhaps because of it, the volcano is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The rich volcanic soil also makes agriculture one of the top sources of livelihood in the communities around Mayon.

Those communities as well as the crowds that visit Mayon and the other attractions of Legazpi need accurate and timely advice on the activities of the volcano.

There are instruments at the Mayon Volcano Observatory, midway up the slopes, that constantly monitor the volcanic activities. The instruments run on electricity, which are powered by solar panels. On Feb. 7, observatory personnel on routine inspection and maintenance discovered that two of the solar panels installed at the Mayon Resthouse were missing.

Aside from the cost to taxpayers of the thievery, the transmission of data on the state of Mayon has been disrupted, putting public safety at risk. When Mayon had an unexpected phreatic or steam-driven explosion in May 2013, similar to the one in Taal last Jan. 12, four German tourists and their Filipino guide who were within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone died on Mayon’s slopes in a stream of superheated mud and rocks.

It shouldn’t be impossible to find stolen solar panels. The police must track down and arrest the thieves, and anyone who might have bought the hot items. Fencing encourages thievery: people have been killed over cell phones that were sold by the muggers to fences. Public utility services are disrupted because copper wires are stolen for sale to fences.

If those who stole the solar panels are not caught and punished, the thievery could be repeated, with even more expensive and important items taken. And it could have dire consequences for the communities around Mayon.