Issue of February 11, 2018

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DENR official assures Mount Pulag will ‘heal’ naturally
by Ofelia C. Empian

NATURAL PARK -- Despite the closure of the Mt. Pulag summit and the Akiki Trail for trekking due to a recent fire incident that razed a part of the area, trekkers continue to scale the highest mountain in Luzon with an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level and third in the Philippines. Mount Pulag was proclaimed a national park in 1987 through Presidential Proclamation 75 and is part of the Cordillera Biogeographic Zone and a National Integrated Areas Program site. -- Contributed photo

There is no need for human intervention when it comes to the rehabilitation of Mount Pulag as it will “naturally grow on its own.”

This was underscored by Mount Pulag National Park Superintendent Teber Dionisio, as he confirmed that it would take three to six months for the natural vegetation in the area that was damaged by a fire last month to grow.  The most affected area is the grassland where dwarf bamboos grow.

“We will wait for it to grow naturally as it is a natural ecosystem vegetated by natural grass species,” Dionisio said. 

He likened the burned area to a pastureland that grows naturally and doesn’t need replanting.

A grassfire hit the national park last Jan. 20, destroying 5.9 hectares or about 1.5 percent of the 387-hectare Mt. Pulag grassland area.

The fire started when the butane gas stove that the hikers were using in cooking exploded, prompting one of the campers to throw the stove towards the Saddle Camp or Camp 3 of the national park.

The fire escalated quickly, despite efforts of hikers, tour guides and forest rangers to suppress it.

Dionisio said des-pite the closure of the Akiki trail and the Mt. Pulag summit, tourists, primarily those who have prior reservations are still scaling the forest reserve.

The Protected Area Management Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the sangguniang bayan will discuss  the possible amendment of the policies for Mt. Pulag on Feb. 12.

Kabayan Dionisio said this would include the possibility of barring cooking in the forest reserve.

He said the municipal council of Kabayan mentioned the possibility of conducting a ritual at the summit of Pulag but the council has not yet coordinated with the park management on when it will be held.

“During our recent meeting with the Kabayan SB they suggested that the hikers be fined with one pig to appease the spirits in the summit,” he said.

Lawyer Rainier Laita, OIC chief of the legal office of DENR-Cordillera, said the agency is still computing the cost of damage of the grassland fire.

Earlier, the Benguet Prosecutor’s Office ordered the DENR-CAR to provide the amount of damages incurred during the forest fire, which will be used as basis in the filing of a case of reckless imprudence resulting in arson against the group of hikers.

Laita said they will submit the same to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

He said they are also contemplating on filing a case for violation of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act against the erring hikers.

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