By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is poised to file charges against the campers who caused a forest fire at the Mount Pulag summit on January 20.
Director Ralph Pablo of the DENR said they will press charges against the trekkers who caused the fire. “We are waiting for the investigation report of the BFP to use as basis for the filing of charges against the trekkers,” he said.
Pablo said the charges would most probably be violations of RA 7586 or National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) and PD 705 or Forestry Law.
Pablo said the fire started when a group of seven campers panicked after and threw their malfunctioning butane stove. He identified the leader of the group as Ramon Kristomar Mackay.
Pablo said that the area razed was actually 5.9 hectares according to GPS calcuations of the DENR contrary to earlier estimates of 1.5 hectares. He said 5.9 has is 1.5% of the over 387 hectares of grassland of Pulag.
But Pablo said the burning of the grasland has no major impact on the entire biodiversity of the mountain. “It is not a bushfire so the impact is not that big and grasslands are usually burned to regenerate,” he said.
The Akiki trail and the sumit are now closed to visitors due to the fire. Pablo said it should remain closed for the next five to six months to allow the grassland to regenerate. But, he said, trekkers can still take the Ambangi trail to the tower site and peak two to view the sea of clouds.
Visitors will be required to bring fire extinguishers when they trek up Mount Pulag when it opens in five to six months.
Pablo said the Bureau of Fire Prevention Cordillera recommended that in the future, Pulag visitors who will encamp at the peak should be required to bring at lease two five pounds fire extinguishers.
“There is no water at the sumit, to douse any fire, maybe if there was water or fire extinguisher the campers may not have panicked and were able to prevent the fire,” Pablo said. # nordis.net