Un seul hélicoptère, un seul malheureux hélicoptère pour lutter contre un feu de forêt dans un endroit particulièrement inaccessible ! Trois cents cinquante hectares, situés sur les flancs du Mont Apo le plus haut sommet de l’archipel, sont déjà partis en fumée.

S’il se confirme que l’activité humaine, à savoir les randonneurs et campeurs qui escaladent le Mont Apo, s’avère être la cause de l’incendie, faut-il comme à Banahaw, adopter une politique d’interdiction de l’activité humaine dans certains endroits ?

La majorité des randonneurs et campeurs sont des citadins ; contrairement aux locaux leur connaissance du feu et de sa propagation est limitée.

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.

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.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is hoping to put out the fire that has already engulfed about 350 hectares of forests and grasslands at Mt. Apo by today, Thursday.

“If weather permits, fire could be out today (March 30) or tomorrow (March 31),” DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said in an interview, citing a report from the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

A Super Huey chopper from the PAF was deployed in the area Tuesday morning to conduct water bucket operations to put out the fire.

“We are hoping that we can stop the fire immediately because we do not want the fire to reach the forested area where the century-old trees are located. If fire reaches this area, it will be more difficult to stop the fire,” he added.

“Each of the seven composite teams now up in Mt. Apo has DENR personnel providing technical assistance, particularly in the use of geographical position system or GPS and control maps, including the establishment of fire lines to prevent the fire from further spreading,” he explained.

A fire line is a gap in vegetation or other combustible materials that will act as barrier to slow down the fire from spreading.

While the fire is expected to be put out today, its impact on the Mt. Apo Natural Park (MANP) might have already taken its toll on the flora and fauna in the area, Edward Ragasa, DENR-11 Parks Operations Superintendent, said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin Tuesday evening.

Most of the affected areas are grasslands while the forested areas particularly those classified as open and close canopy areas were not severely affected by fire.

Forested areas, around 20 hectares near Lake Venado were only affected, Ragasa said, adding that the firefighting operations will continue until the fire is completely contained and quelled.
“Our focus now will be on prevention and to establish more fire lines,” he pointed out.


MANP is the home to around 800 vascular and non-vascular plant species and considered endemic in the area; an estimated 272 species of birds of which 40 percent or 111 are considered endemic to Mt. Apo. Two of these species are now listed as critical, including the Philippine Eagle (Pthecophaga jefferyi) and Abukay (Cacatua heamatopygia) while another 10 are already considered endangered species, among them are the Mindanao scoops owl (Otus mirus); the lesser eagle owl (Bobu philippensis); Mindanao lorikeet (Tricoglosus johnstoniae); the whritted hornbill (Aceros leucocephalus).

Situated at 2,143.6 meters above sea level MANP is a declared protected area and is being managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) composed of the cities of Davao, Digos, and municipalities of Sta. Cruz and Bansalan all in Davao del Sur and the City of Kidapawan and the towns of Makilala and Magpet in North Cotabato.

Paje said initial reports point to human factor as the cause of the forest fire, which started at the Campsite 3. Mt. Apo is famous to campers and trekkers, especially during summer.  “After the assessment and we have determined the cause of the fire, we will be issuing a directive similar to the policy adopted at Mt. Banahaw where a moratorium on human activities in certain areas has been extended until February 2019,” he pointed out.

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