Popular hiking destination Mount Pulag in Benguet Province was destroyed on Saturday, January 22 by a fire caused by a portable butane gas stove.
On its Facebook page, the Bureau of Fire Protection posted a statement giving out more details of the unfortunate accident:
- The fire started at Saddle Camp in Mount Pulag National Park at around 3:00 p.m.
- Firefighters arrived at 7:10 p.m.
- They extinguished the fire at 9:15 p.m.
- There were no injuries or fatalities.
A statement released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday, said that the forest fire had destroyed more than five hectares of grassland stretching from Saddle Camp to the ridge slopes at the northeastern part of the summit.
The DENR is preparing to file criminal charges against those who are responsible for causing this incident which has endangered their fellow hikers and damaged forest resources.
“The DENR recognizes the impact of the fire had on the national park and we will pursue all legal avenues to bring those responsible to account,” DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said.
DENR's initial investigation revealed that the butane gas stove that caused the blaze was owned by a group of hikers from Cebu.
"Regional Director Ralph Pablo of the DENR-Cordillera Administrative Region said seven mountaineers led by a certain Kristomar Mackay could face criminal charges for violation of Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, and Presidential Decree No. 75, also known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines."
The DENR plans to impose additional requirements for hikers to prevent such incidents to recur, they are also considering to open areas for cooking and require campers to bring portable fire extinguishers.
"The DENR is mandated to protect Mt. Pulag, but it is imperative that hikers and visitors do their part as well,” Cimatu pointed out.
To give way for the rehabilitation of the damaged areas, some parts of Mt. Pulag have been declared off-limits to visitors.
Filipinos have expressed their disappointment over Mt. Pulag's destruction on social media, they have been posting photos of the incident, some have posted before and after photos of the mountain.
Sad photo of Mt. Pulag currently on fire thanks to a group who left their stove on pic.twitter.com/JwyZkdfvHF— Ram Lopez-Vito Bucoy (@Rambuc) January 22, 2018
— Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/LA, GMA News