By Joseph John J. Perez
LEGAZPI CITY, 28May2013 – Tourism is more fun in the Philippines but stricter measures for the safety of foreign tourists must be pursued.
This is the reaction of Bicol’s Bureau of Immigration chief Josephus Ojano on the recent climbing incident that involved a Russian national on the restricted area of Mayon Volcano.
“Our government immediately gives assistance to foreigners in need but our compatriots overseas do not experience the same treatment,” Ojano said.
Mark Yuchyugyaev, age 28 a Russian tourist scaled Mayon 10:30 am on Sunday (May 19) alone despite the warnings of the locals and the existing prohibition of mountaineering activities within the volcano’s six-kilometer permanent danger zone imposed by the Provincial Government of Albay in the wake of the recent deaths of four German nationals and a local guide and injuring 8 others due to the unexpected phreatic explosion of Mayon last May 7.
Yuchyugyaev made a distress call at 8:02 pm Tuesday (May 21) to Jerry Delana, a resident of Barangay Busao in Daraga town whom he met while taking some pictures at Cagsawa ruins, informing him that he broke his leg and suffering from cold temperature.
Delana notified the Bureau of Fire Protection that alerted the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) which in turn organized a search and rescue team that was ready to start the operations by 10:00 pm on that same night. The team though after assessment, took off at 6:00 am the following day due to the critical and risky terrain since Yuchyugyaev took the Mi-isi trail, a route not usually taken by mountaineers.
Earlier reports cast doubts on the real nationality of Yuchyugyaev but Ojano dispelled the rumors.
“He is indeed a Russian national however of Mongolian descent and his entry to our country is documented,” Ojano said.
Yuchyugyaev arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on May 16 on board Cathay Pacific via Beijing, China. He is allowed to stay in the Philippine soil until June 5, Ojano said.
According to the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) Region 5, Yuchyugyaev was airlifted at 4:00 pm on May 23 in a Philippine Air Force (PAF) chopper that they coordinated to transport the victim. Yuchyugyaev was located at 10:00 am Wednesday (May 22) through his mirror signals to the rescuers. He was found stuck at the Mi-isi Gulley and later brought to Camp 2 for initial medical attention.
“We are spending resources as part of our culture of being hospitable to visitors,” Ojano said.
Aside from reimbursing the government on the expenses on the rescue operations, the appropriate fines and penalties must be sanctioned to foreign nationals who violated local ordinances and laws, Ojano said.
“Unfortunately, not a single barangay, municipal or provincial ordinance was passed yet imposing penalties to violators of climbing restrictions at Mayon as an articulation of the executive order issued by Governor Joey Salceda,” Ojano said.
Thus, Yuchyugayeav’s stiffest penalty as of the moment is a broken leg. What is important is that he is lucky to be found alive and he can say that there is more fun in the Philippines. [PIA5-Albay]