DENR prepares charges vs hikers responsible for Mount Pulag fire
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday, January 24 said it is now preparing criminal charges against those responsible for the fire that destroyed more than 5 hectares of grassland near the summit of Mount Pulag.
"The DENR recognizes the impact the fire had on the national park and we will pursue all legal avenues to bring those responsible to account," Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement.
According to the DENR, initial investigation revealed that the fire was ignited by an explosion from a butane gas stove "brought by a group of hikers from Cebu."
DENR-Cordillera Administrative Region Director Ralph Pablo said 7 mountaineers led by a certain Kristomar Mackay could face criminal charges for violation of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
The DENR said the fire damaged more than 5 hectares of grassland stretching from the Saddle Camp Site to the ridge slopes at the northeastern part of the summit. The Bureau of Fire Protection earlier reported that the fire consumed 1.5 hectares of grassland.
Following the forest fire, the environment department is planning to impose additional requirements for hikers who want to climb the famous forest park.
Parts of Mount Pulag have already been declared off-limits to visitors to allow the area to rehabilitate. DENR said it is preparing "measures" to speed up the rehabilitation process.
According to Pablo, the management of the forest park plans to require overnight campers to bring portable fire extinguishers. They also plan to designate an open area in Mount Pulag where cooking will be allowed.
DENR said Cimatu supports these plans.
"The DENR is mandated to protect Mount Pulag, but it is imperative that hikers and visitors do their part as well," Cimatu said.
He added: "Mount Pulag has one of the richest biodiversities from the foot of the mountain to its summit and we must all be responsible agents for its conservation." – Rappler.com