MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced Friday, January 26, that the Akiki trail – a challenging trail up Mount Pulag – will be closed “for 6 months or more” following the fire that destroyed more than 5 hectares of grassland in the famous forest park.
“Authorities have decided to close the Akiki trail for 6 months or more to facilitate the regeneration process,” the DENR said in a statement on Friday.
It added: “The temporary closure of the Akiki trail is also meant to protect the safety of the mountaineers as stone and boulders in the mountain were exposed and may fall anytime towards campsites and trails.”
On Friday, the DENR gave more details about the fire that broke out at about 3 pm of January 20 at Akiki trail’s Campsite No. 3.
“The fire was placed under control at 7:00 pm with the combined efforts of hikers and the newly-formed Mt. Pulag National park forest firefighting crews composed of tour guides, community residents, bantaygubat and park rangers,” the statement read.
The DENR said the fire ignited by an explosion from a butane gas stove damaged 5.9 hectares of grassland stretching from the Saddle Camp Site to the ridge slopes at the northeastern part of the summit.
According to the DENR, the January 20 incident is the 3rd grassfire occurrence in Mount Pulag since it was opened for mountain trekking. The first fire occurred in 1998, followed by the second fire in 2003.
The 7 mountaineers responsible for the forest fire are now facing charges for arson and for violating the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
Mount Pulag’s Ambangeg trail will remain open to hikers.
DENR-Cordillera Administrative Region Director Ralph Pablo gave an update on the additional requirements that will be imposed on hikers who want to climb Mount Pulag.
Pablo said bringing at least two units of portable fire extinguishers (5 lbs.) will now be part of the basic requirements for a climb. In addition, he said they are also mulling the prohibition of matches and cigarettes.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered a review of his department’s guidelines for Mount Pulag and all protected areas and national parks.
“We really need to impose stricter rules. To continue enjoying our natural wealth, visitors should also be more responsible since all of us are protectors of the environment,” he said in the statement. – Rappler.com