Forest fire now destroys 200 hectares of Mt. Apo forest cover

DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur — The massive fire in the country’s highest peak continues to eat up areas of Mt. Apo now estimated at 200 hectares, including the mini-forest of the beautiful Lake Venado.

Firefighters coming from different fire stations in the province have been dispatched to help contain the forest fire that hit Mt. Apo since Saturday noon.

According to Harry Camoro, provincial disaster risk-reduction management officer, the forest fire already damaged more than 200 hectares and could continue to destroy more if no immediate solution will be undertaken.

Camoro said the fire started from the Kapatagan trail in Digos City and spread towards the side of Lake Venado.

Considered the highest peak in the country with an elevation of 2,954 meters, Mt Apo is one of the Philippines’ favorite tourist destinations and often visited during Holy Week.

Camoro said there were no reported injuries and nearly all of the 1,000 tourists who were on the mountain were evacuated by noon Sunday.

The forest fire is said to be a common occurrence especially when there is drought. The cause was still undetermined.

Davao City is also sending its team from Central 911 to help quell the fire. The trail to Mt Apo from Davao City area has long been closed to trekkers.

Presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday ordered Central 911 to respond to the Mt. Apo fire.

Duterte called for urgent action to help quell the forest fire that broke out at around 1 p.m. of March 26.

The Davao City Mayor’s order came after dozens of trekkers, who climbed Mt. Apo during the Holy Week, were evacuated as Makilala and Magpet Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel in North Cotabato have been trying to fight the forest fire.

According to North Cotabato tourism officer Joey Recimilla, as of Sunday morning the forest fire, which is only about 2 kilometers from Lake Venado, has continued to spread.

Lake Venado is said to be adjacent to the reforestation sites in Makilala town.

If not contained, Recimilla expressed fear that the fire could penetrate the Kidapawan-Magpet-Makilala eco-triangle.

“Davao City’s 911 units are always ready to respond if necessary,” he said referring to Davao City’s Emergency Response Team that addresses calls needing police assistance and any type of emergency.

Davao City’s Emergency Response units have gone providing assistance beyond Davao City.

It can be recalled that in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, Duterte sent medical teams and personnel of Central 911 to help in the massive search and rescue operations in the battered Tacloban City and Typhoon Pablo in 2012.

Duterte also called for long term action on watershed management and forest protection especially in important watersheds like Mt. Apo.

“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,” he said.

“El Niño 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 added. PNA/