DENR chief warns vs. work in Albay quarries during Mayon eruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu called out quarries in Albay near Mayon volcano for continuing to operate despite the volcano's frequent eruptions.

"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 in a Tuesday statement.

Mayon has been erupting since Jan. 13, with officials immediately evacuating residents within the 6-kilometer-radius of the volcano's Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ).

TIMELINE: The Mayon eruption

Cimatu issued the statement following reports that workers in quarries were still hauling sand and gravel within the PDZ despite warnings from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The DENR regional office in Legazpi City 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," he said.

On Jan. 22, Phivolcs raised Alert Level 4 over Mayon, which warns of an imminent hazardous eruption, possibly within days or weeks.

Read: PHIVOLCS raises alert level 4 over Mayon Volcano

This is one notch down from the highest level, Alert Level 5, which means that a hazardous eruption is taking place.

Meanwhile, DENR Region 5 Director Eva Ocfemia reported that total suspended particulates have reached "unhealthy levels" over Ligao City and the municipalities of Camalig and Guinobatan.

Related: Officials: More Mayon evacuees getting sick

Thus, Ocfemia advised residents in said areas to constantly use face masks to avoid exposure to harmful dust that may compromise their respiratory health.