April 6, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday said deposits of sulfur may be causing the continuous fire in Mt. Apo.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said he already coordinated with Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum Jr. regarding this matter.
Sulfur is a flammable substance that can be ignited by a flame or spark.
As of Tuesday noon or 10 days since the blaze started, the DENR said the flame was spreading along the forest area of Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur.
The fire in the country’s highest peak started last March 26.
According to DENR Region 11 director Joselin Marcus Fragada, authorities and volunteers continued to conduct water bucket operations and establishing more fire lines to prevent further spread of flame.
He said the Department of Agriculture also conducted another cloud seeding operations on Tuesday in a bid to put out the fire.
The Davao Region Incident Management Team has downgraded the burned area in Mt. Apo to 102 hectares as assessed by field observers and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance.
Paje recently directed all protected area management boards (PAMBs) nationwide to prioritize forest fire preventions in their strategic planning to ensure the protection of the country’s biodiversity and their habitats.
He issued the directive in light of the series of grassfire outbreaks in four of the country’s most protected areas: Mt. Apo that straddles in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur; Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato; Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon; and Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island.
“Aside from tourism development, PAMBs should also come up with their respective forest protection plan and allocate funds for the establishment of fire lines and other forest fire prevention activities like training for technical staff and volunteers,” the DENR chief said.
Paje also instructed regional directors to heighten their coordination with local government units and people’s organizations to ensure safety of people and forest vegetation.
He said there is a need to intensify public awareness campaign against forest fire, especially now that we are in a dry El Nino year.
Paje appealed to the public, particularly campers and trekkers planning to visit protected areas to be more responsible.
He said everyone should exercise caution when building bonfires and make sure these are completely extinguished before leaving the place.
“The public, particularly the local communities within or near the protected areas should be reminded to exercise extra vigilance against the risk of forest fires as protected areas, including natural parks and wildlife sanctuaries, are considered as the last remaining representatives of the country’s habitats and ecosystems,” he noted.