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Fire razing ‘Holy Mountain’ in Philippines
"They'll evaluate the situation there and make the corresponding recommendations," FMB Director Ricardo Calderon said of the fire which firefighters are desperately trying to contain.
He said FMB formed the team immediately after learning that a fire broke out in Mt. Banahaw. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Manila has also sent three helicopters to the area.
Mt. Banahaw lies between Quezon and Laguna provinces.
Considered by many as a “holy mountain,” Mt. Banahaw is popular among pilgrims and mountain climbers.
"It's also a protected area," Calderon said.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) noted that in 2004, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in the area issued a resolution declaring specific areas in the mountain as closed to the public "starting from the different 'puestos' (sacred places) of Barangay Kinabuhayan to Kristalino Falls up to Dungaw to Tatlong Tangke then back to Kinabuhayan in the Dolores side, and from Barangay Bugon Puesto of Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Barangay Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw in the Sariaya side, both in Quezon province."
In 2012, DENR said the PAMB decided to extend the moratorium for another three years or until 2015 to give the mountain sufficient time to fully recover from years of degradation.
Calderon said provincial and community environment and natural resources officers concerned are monitoring the fire. He told dzRH radio-Manila in an interview Thursday morning that up to 17 hectares have already been eaten by fire.
"They're trained in fire prevention and control," he assured.
Earlier, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said the fire already ravaged about 10 hectares in Mt. Banahaw.
The fire is at the mountain's side near Quezon's Sariaya Municipality, OCD noted.
According to Calderon, this is the first time a fire hit that part of Mt. Banahaw.
"Previously, fires commonly occurred in that mountain's side facing San Pablo," he said.
OCD said it continues coordinating with Southern Luzon command regarding target reconnaissance activities around the mountain to assess extent of the fire's damage.
Cause of the fire is still unclear, OCD added.