DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 March) — The Bureau of Fire Protection’s Special Rescue Unit has been dispatched to Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, to help put out the fire that started Saturday afternoon in Campsite 3 but has reportedly spread to the Century Tree Trail that leads to Talomo-Sibulan-Kapatagan in Davao del Sur, a tourism official of Digos City said.
In a telephone interview, Edgardo “Bebot: Elera, head of the Digos City Tourism Office, told MindaNews that they met with BFP Region 11 and other government officials on what steps they would take to contain the fire.
He said they will conduct an aerial survey by Monday morning to assess the extent of the damage caused by the massive fire, which started at 1 p.m. on Black Saturday.
Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command told MindaNews that they dispatched an aircraft to check on the Mt. Apo fire on Easter Sunday morning and will return to the area on Monday morning with the head of the regional Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (DRRMC).
Elera said a group of porters and monitoring team of Digos Tourism saw a bush fire at the peak on Saturday but they failed to contain it until it grew out of hand.
Elera said the cause of fire cannot be determined yet.
He said there are no more climbers in any of the campsites.
The Duterte-Cayetano Media Team said Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte has tasked Central 911 to assist in containing the fire.
“Mt. Apo is not only a tourist spot, and adventure for taking selfies, but mountains and volcanoes with forests help manage the effects of climate change,” the Presidential aspirant was quoted as saying.
Duterte was reported to have suggested a long-term action on watershed management and forest protection especially in important watersheds like Mt. Apo.
“El Nino is undeniably here. We need less talk and more action to protect or enhance nature around us, since our survival depends on it, especially the rural poor,” Duterte was quoted as saying.
Mary Ann Fuertes, Executive Director of the Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) said what is happening in Mt. Apo is “a proof we, including nature, are all vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The prolonged dry season makes forests prone to fire.”
She called on Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 11, local tourism offices, city and municipal authorities to take action in the protection and preservation of the country’s highest peak by assigning forest guards in all Mt. Apo trails and campsites.
Each climber pays P750 to P1,000 as entry/registration fee to the local government.
“There are no forest guards who monitor the movements of the climbers,” she said. (Antonio Colina IV /MindaNews)