5-hour fire hits Mt. San Cristobal in Laguna; ‘kaingin’ blamed
SAN PEDRO CITY — A five-hour fire, suspected to be started by a group of kaingero (slash and burn farmers), broke out on Mount San Cristobal in Nagcarlan town in Laguna province on Wednesday, burning patches of grassland on the mountain shared by Laguna and Quezon provinces, environment officials said on Thursday.
Salud Pangan, Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) park superintendent for Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal, said the fire started at 4 p.m. and was put out at about 9 p.m.
Teams of DENR personnel from Laguna and Quezon were on their way to the mountain on Thursday to check the extent of damage. Mount San Cristobal, at 1,470 meters above sea level, straddles parts of Dolores town in Quezon and San Pablo City and Nagcarlan in Laguna.
Gaudencio dela Cruz of the DENR regional office in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) said the fire was at its peak at 8 p.m.
A photo of the mountain on fire was shared on the Facebook pages of mountaineering and outdoor groups, but its members said it was unlikely that the fire was caused by mountaineering activities since the mountain is closed to hikers.
The fire was visible from San Pablo City in Laguna, reports said.
Dela Cruz said DENR personnel were checking whether the fire hit an area where seedlings were planted as part of the government’s National Greening Program.
Pangan called on officials in mountain villages to help the DENR in monitoring the illegal activities of known kaingero in their communities.
“They should help the government to stop this destructive farming method, especially with the prevailing [weather condition],” she said.
Kaingin is a farming method where natural vegetation is cut down and burned to create fields for cultivation. The practice is illegal under the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines of 1975 (Presidential Decree No. 705).
On April 4, an 18-hour fire destroyed more than 50 hectares of cogon land atop Mount Masalukot in Candelaria town in Quezon. Masalukot lies within the buffer zone of Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal.
A forest fire in May 2014 also damaged a portion of Banahaw and destroyed endangered plants and killed and displaced animals.
That fire on the mountain slope facing Sariaya town was believed to have been started by backpackers who ignored a ban on trekking within Banahaw. JE
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