Mt. Pulag closed to trekkers due to forest fires

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) – Authorities announced the closure of Mt. Pulag to the public this week due to forest fires that razed portions of the town of Kabayan in Benguet.

In a public safety advisory issued on Sunday, the Mt. Pulag park management announced the order of Kabayan Mayor Faustino Aquisan to close the highest mountain in Luzon following reports of week-long fires that hit the area.

The management previously announced that only Akiki Trail would be closed to trekkers after a forest fire was reported in Barangay Eddet on February 23. Rains poured and stopped the fire, authorities said.

In a statement sent to the media on Tuesday, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) announced that more than 600 hectares of forest land in Benguet were damaged by the fire that lasted for eight days.

The fire started between Sitios Sacob and Sitio Abat of Barangay Adaoay in Kabayan on February 11, but the Bureau of Fire Protection-Kabayan had to declare a fire out twice on February 18, first at 6:00 a.m., then at 12:27 p.m. after the fire rekindled.

"As per DENR-CAR, this forest fire was aggravated by the biophysical conditions of the area (terrains, heat exposure, wind, etc), forest fire management of concerned agencies, and the apparent indifference of the community people towards the prevention of forest fires," OCD said.

It added that no definite perpetrators behind the incident have been identified so far.

"Investigations like these unfortunately lead to no avail due to lack of willing witnesses," the agency added.

Citing DENR-CAR, OCD said the total value of damage was at ₱1,670,455, including the established forest plantations of the Expanded National Greening Program.

Meanwhile, BFP Bokod said fire personnel were still trying to monitor another forest fire at Barangay Poblacion since February 18. It said on Tuesday that fire was still ongoing and affecting a nearby village.