MABALACAT, Pampanga–The drowning of a tourist in the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo early this month has raised questions on how a Korean-owned travel firm ensured the safety of its clients and on how the local government of Capas, Tarlac, regulated the firm.
Capas Mayor Antonio Rodriguez Jr. said he ordered the Pull Travel Destination Corp. to suspend operations indefinitely pending an investigation of how the company and its guides prevented or responded to the Jan. 2 incident.
The drowning victim, Roselito Julao, and his in-laws were part of a group of eight people who registered at the PDC for a tour of the world-famous volcano. A provisional receipt showed they paid P1,500 each for the trek, lunch and shower or a total of P12,000.
Formed after the 1991 eruptions blasted the Pinatubo summit, the crater-lake is 3 km wide and 100 meters deep. The crater is filled with rain water.
The crater lake is six hours by foot from Barangay (village) Sta. Juliana or two hours of hiking at a dropoff point via an all-terrain jeep on the lahar-laden bed of O’Donnel River.
There are no signals for mobile phones at the crater. Swimming at the crater lake is prohibited, which is announced through a billboard.
Dr. Rowena Julao, the victim’s husband, said a video footage taken by Roselito’s companions showed several foreigners swimming there, indicating that guides did not enforce the no-swimming ban or that guests ignored this.
An autopsy done on Roselito showed he died of “asphyxia by drowning” and not due to a heart attack or heart ailment, as earlier reports indicated.
Dr. Julao said the result of the autopsy done on her husband, conducted by Senior Inspector Maria Angela Guese, a doctor, contradicted the causes cited in the Jan. 7 death certificate issued by Dr. Carlos Balmores.
“He had no heart problem. Neither did he take regular medicines for heart ailment,” Dr. Julao said on Monday.
She said she requested for an autopsy due to the wrong information on the death certificate and to clear a statement by Rodriguez that said Roselito “might have died from a heart attack because when the guides and his companions fished him out of the water, blood oozed from his nose and mouth.”
In a phone interview, Rodriguez defended Balmores, saying the Jan. 7 death certificate was not based on an autopsy but on initial diagnosis.