Mt. Banahaw climbers, pilgrims told to shun fire-causing activities

MANILA The environment department is reminding people to refrain from undertaking activities that may further trigger a fire in Mt. Banahaw in the wake of the latest incident that broke out this week.

"People must not cook and throw away cigarette butts there," said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) senior forest management specialist Joybert Mijares.

He noted both activities are common human causes of fire in Banahaw.

Fire can also occur naturally from spontaneous combustion of dry leaves and other litter, he added.

Mijares, however, said the cause of the fire in Banahaw this week and extent of its damage were yet unclear, although a team of investigators have been there to check these out.

DENR Region 4-A Enforcement Division assistant head Ernie Diso said the fire struck Banahaw's portion in Candelaria town in Quezon province.

Mijares said authorities are now briefing people wanting to climb Mt. Banahaw about activities they must not do there, including those that can set fire.

But he is not discounting the possibility that some people still manage to climb the mountain undetected and engage in unauthorized activities there.

Mt. Banahaw is part of Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL), which straddles Laguna and Quezon provinces. Although an active volcano, it is popular among pilgrims and mountain climbers.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Mt. Banahaw had eruptions in 1730, 1743, and 1843.

But it continues attracting people for its natural beauty and alleged mystic powers.

According to DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), flora in MBSCPL include 358 tree species, 19 vine species, 15 palm species, 39 fern species, 15 grass species, 42 fungi species, and 17 shrub species.

Scientists have classified some 56 flora species there as endemic, noted BMB.

Fauna in MBSCPL include 246 bird species, 38 reptile species, 62 mammal species, 43 amphibian species, and 193 insect species, BMB added.

Various sects consider Banahaw a holy mountain with mystic powers, prompting these groups to perform religious rituals there.

Source: Philippine News Agency