Mayon Lahar Avalanche: A Repeat of Pinatubo

15 years after Pinatubo
When will the government learn from its negligence (mistakes)?

UGNAYAN-Central Luzon
Posted by Bulatlat

We, the victims of the eruptions and succeeding after-effects (the lahar avalanche) of Mt. Pinatubo beginning 1991 – particularly we, the people, in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in Central Luzon – say that what happened on Mt. Mayon is just a repeat of the negligence the government never learned even after 15 years.

Firstly, we were never informed that there is an “active” volcano nor even told that there is a volcano in our midst, right in the tri-boundary. Secondly, during the volcano’s initial minor signs of restlessness in March in 1991, we were not told of the magnitude if ever the volcano will erupt, hence the “false sense of security” among the people, therefore, the lack of disaster preparedness.

And so during its major eruptions, there were no evacuation plan, ready-to-use evacuation and resettlement centers. This is the main reason for the big infrastructure and property damages, public and private. And this is the main reason for the big number of human casualties (death, wounded and missing).

And even after the eruptions, the false sense of security among the people did not readily disappear because the people were subsequently told that the government was doing or actually had done it responsibility on engineering interventions in order to save people and properties. Because we in the various people’s organizations were not so convinced that the government was doing its duties and responsibilities, we were compelled to organize ourselves into an alliance in order to protect our bodies, our remaining properties and or rights as disaster victims. We organized the UGNAYAN or the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan para sa Tunay na Resetelment at Rehabilitasyon where provincial chapters in each of the three provinces were simultaneously also organized.

After the major eruptions, we fanned out to different villages that, we saw, were still in danger of lahar avalanche. We saw with our own eyes the millions of cubic meters of lahar still suspended on mountain cliffs and gullies. With limited resources, we conducted disaster preparedness trainings in cooperation with different non-government organizations and civic organizations, taking into special account the vulnerability of the people. In most of the cases we were shooed away by government officials saying were are scaring the people and branded “rumor mongers.” A high provincial government official repeatedly said, “You can sleep soundly now, never fear, you are now safe from lahar flow, we have constructed the Gugu Dike.” This statement was echoed by lower-level local government officials.

It turned out that the much-boasted of dike was only an earth dike made of porous lahar materials that was easily swept away in only one lahar episode. This was what happened in the famous Cabalantian Tragedy (a village in the town of Bacolor, Pampanga) where thousands of people died in their sleep on Oct. 1, 1995.

And this is what happened in the lower slopes and the villages surrounding the Mt. Mayon – clear government negligence, in a government that is preoccupied in a never-ending survival fight to save a pretender, where government resources are being siphoned off to buy out congressmen and local government officials and buy votes. Posted by (

Frank Mangulabnan is chairman of UGNAYAN-Central Luzon

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