Landslides feared as grass fires hit Mt. Arayat

Landslides feared as grass fires hit Mt. Arayat

/ 05:02 AM April 20, 2024

Landslides feared as grass fires hit Mt. Arayat

RAGING A fire engulfs a large section of Mt. Arayat as seen in this photo taken on Thursday, torching almost 14 hectares, including a government plantation where 1,500 fruit bearing trees were burned. —GERALD SALAS/CONTRIBUTOR

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Authorities in Pampanga province have called for an investigation into the source of grass fires that engulfed a large section of Mt. Arayat on Wednesday as an immediate damage assessment has been set due to fear of landslides and rockslides from its slopes.

According to Angelina Blanco, executive officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the assessment ordered by Gov. Dennis Pineda with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau will be held after the agencies complete their field investigations.


READ: ‘Kaingin’ eyed in Mount Arayat grassfire


Mt. Arayat, which is not listed as an active volcano based on the records of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, hosts a national park since 1933.

The fire that broke out on Wednesday and lasted for 13 hours spared people’s lives and homes but scorched around 1,500 trees inside a 13-hectare government plantation of the National Greening Program, according to Roger Encarnacion, DENR officer in Pampanga.

In a phone interview, Encarnacion said the damaged trees were among the 20,000 fruit-bearing varieties planted on rolling to flat slopes in 2012 and 2013.

READ: Landslides on Mt. Arayat endanger 1,531 families, say experts

Before the fire, the trees had grown to as tall as seven feet, he said, noting that the survival of the damaged trees would be monitored.

Some 5,000 bamboo seedlings and 5,000 “guyabano” seedlings have been placed on standby to replace dead trees.



Landslides on Mt. Arayat since 2009 had killed 13 people. The erodible materials, largely rocks, on four creeks after Supertyphoon “Karding” (international name: Noru) and Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng” (Nalgae) in 2022 totaled 324,043 cubic meters, the Environmental Management Bureau records then showed. Computed at 18 cu.m. per truckload, the volume of debris was equivalent to 18,000 truckloads.

The fire was the third after the blazes on April 2 and another in March, all originating from the side of nearby Magalang town, Encarnacion said.

The Bureau of Fire Protection earlier traced the latest fire to “kaingin,” or slash-and-burn farming.

In a phone interview, Arayat Mayor Maria Lourdes Alejandrino expressed her fear that “kaingin” farmers and those who burned wood from trees for charcoal, locally called “magka-carbon,” have “exposed more grounds vulnerable to landslides or rockslides.”

Alejandrino said livelihood assistance to marginal farmers and the hiring of eight men as forest guards “proved to be insufficient.”

“If the dry spell drags on, I may have to request the Philippine Air Force to help with cloud seeding over Mt. Arayat to induce rains there,” she said.

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Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales said he would create a fact-finding committee to investigate and evaluate the status of the protected area, including alleged anomalies there.

TAGS: grass fires, Mt. Arayat

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