Filipino scientists

Spare scientists from politics: The legacy of late veteran volcanologist Ed Laguerta

Rhaydz B. Barcia

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Spare scientists from politics: The legacy of late veteran volcanologist Ed Laguerta

SCIENTIST. Late Phivolcs Bicol chief resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta.

Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

Veteran volcanologist Ed Laguerta has died on December 30. He was 69.

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – A veteran volcanologist in Bicol who monitored the most dangerous active volcanoes in the Philippines, providing the public much-needed information in times of disaster, has passed away before New Year’s Day.

Eduardo Laguerta, a retired resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), died on Saturday, December 30, due to heart failure, in his hometown Irosin, Sorsogon. He was 69.

Laguerta served the government for 41 years.

Friends and family described him as low profile, having silently monitored the Mayon Volcano since 1993 to ensure the safety of residents. Prior to this, he was among those who kept track of the volcanic activities and eruptions of Mount Pinatubo. 

“We are saddened by the passing of my good friend Ed Laguerta, a longtime partner in [disaster risk reduction] in understanding and responding to the risks of Mayon and lahar,” said Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda.

SCIENTIST. Late Phivolcs Bicol chief resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta presides a meeting. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler
Filipino first

Laguerta was an electrical engineering graduate of Eastern University and underwent various trainings to become a volcanologist, including one at the University of Hawaii.

With his vast experience and academic background, he was the sole scientist who constantly flew with the Philippine Air Force via helicopter to check the status of volcanoes. (READ: The man who watches Mayon)

He received some offers overseas but opted to stay in the country to watch over some of the country’s most active volcanoes, namely Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon, Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga, and Mayon Volcano in Albay.

His work helped the public navigate through the deadly impact of the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991. Two years after his assignment to Pinatubo, Laguerta found himself in Bicol monitoring Mayon’s deadly eruption in 1993.

At one point in his career, he even abandoned a study grant in the United States to return to the Philippines after Mayon suddenly erupted in 2014.

LEGACY. Volcanologist Ed Laguerta with Albay public safety officials. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler
Reserved yet firm

Months before his death, Laguerta spoke to Rappler and said their decisions in any bulletin issued were science-based.

 “Our decision is based on science findings without any political preference as our core objective is the safety of the people. As government workers, we’re just reporting to the local and disaster authorities the current situation of the restive volcano,” Laguerta had said then.

He shared that there were instances when the public questioned their calls to raise alert levels, but the agency stood their ground under his leadership.

“Those questioning our daily volcano bulletins reported to the public through the media are based on science findings after concerted findings by my fellow scientists. Spare us from politics,” the late veteran Phivolcs scientist had said.

After retiring in 2019, Laguerta still advised officials on environmental matters. He urged officials and the public to look into unregulated quarry operations along the slopes of Mount Mayon, which could endanger the lives of Albay residents due to possible landslides. –

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