Russian’s Mayon caper cost gov’t P520 KBy Mar Arguelles
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—Russian tourist Mark Yuchyugyaev’s fascination with Mayon Volcano proved costly to the Philippine government.
In order to rescue the Russian tourist, who went on an unsanctioned Mayon climb and was injured in the process, the government had to spend more than half a million pesos.
Raffy Alejandro, regional direct of the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol, said Friday that at least P520,000 was spent by the government during the two days of search-and-rescue operations to pluck Yuchyugyaev from a gully near Mayon’s crater.
Alejandro broke down the expenses as follows: P450,000 for the fuel used by the two Philippine Air Force helicopters during the two-day operation, or a flying time of about three hours for each helicopter at a fuel cost of P75,000/hour; and food and supplies amounting to P70,000 for the four teams of 35 personnel dispatched during the search.
Alejandro said the expenses were charged to the Disaster Emergency Response Fund of the PAF and the provincial government of Albay.
Yuchyugyaev, now hospitalized at the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital for a broken ankle, has told officials here that in spite of what had happened to him, he would still want to scale the 2,600-meter-high Mayon in the future.
Yuchyugaev said he was mesmerized when he saw the majestic Mayon Volcano in a tourist brochure, which made him decide to visit Albay and scale Mt. Mayon last Sunday.
Yuchyugyaev, 29, who went on a solo climb, got stranded in the Miisi gully near the volcano’s crater on May 21 after he broke his right ankle in a fall, according to an earlier bulletin released by the Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office.
After 32 hours of the search and rescue operations, a weak but conscious Yuchyugyaev was picked up by a PAF helicopter at 4:10 p.m. Thursday and flown to the PAF Tactical Operation Group base at the Legazpi Airport where a waiting ambulance brought took him to the hospital.
Albay public safety chief Cedric Daep told the Inquirer that a plaster cast was applied on the Russian tourist’s right ankle and that he would have to stay at the hospital for several days to fully recover.
Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Francisco III, PAF Tactical Operation Group 5 chief, said the rescue chopper first attempted to pick up the tourist at 2 p.m. Thursday but failed to do so due strong winds.
He said the Russian was finally retrieved during the second attempt at 3 p.m. He was found at the bottom of the gully, some 1,200 meters from the foot of the volcano.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda thanked all those who helped in the operation, especially the five teams, composed of 35 people, who worked for almost two days to save the Russian.
Yuchyugyaev went on the climb despite widely circulated notice by the provincial government here that prohibited all forms of climbs and adventure activities on Mt. Mayon.
The prohibition was enforced following a phreatic or steam-driven explosion on May 7 that killed five persons – four European tourists and their Filipino guide – and injured ten other climbers.
The Russian went up Mayon Volcano via Barangay Miisi, Daraga. Local authorities did not know he was there until he called via cellular phone an acquaintance in Daraga, a certain Jerry Bilala, at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday saying he was lost and hurt. It was Bilala who alerted officials to the Russian’s plight.