Help wanted: mountaineers to volunteer vs Mt. Apo fire

AS THE flames continued to ravage Mt. Apo, an official of Mindanao Mountaineering Community (MMC) said additional volunteers are needed to help save the country’s highest peak.

Daniel M. Bacus, chair of MMC and project director of Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao, said in an interview that as of yesterday, there were already 75 volunteers who were deployed in the mountain.

“(But) at this moment, we still need more volunteers to serve as support teams in helping the local government units (LGUs) stop the forest fire,” Bacus said, citing that they should be skilled, equipped and well trained. They have to also bring cutting tools and personal gears.

The volunteers will not directly fight the fire but would serve as support group for the firefighters and rescuers.

As of press time, Fire Insp. Donald R. Concepcion, officer-in-charge of Digos City Fire Station, said in a phone interview that the forest fire has not yet been contained. He said they will resume their operation today since they could not proceed during night time.

Concepcion said there were 251 persons who helped in the operation as of yesterday, including the volunteers from the mountaineering clubs and personnel from the LGUs, Davao City’s Central 911, air force and other national government agencies.

The fire, he said, already reached in Sta. Cruz trail. “But we could not yet give an official figure as to how many hectares were already affected,” he said.

The mountain has been razed by the fire, which was reported to have started from the peak, since Black Saturday. This prompted LGUs like those in Kidapawan City and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur to close the trails going to the peak.

Edgardo Elera, head of Digos City Tourism Office, said earlier in a phone interview that it would be better that all the trails should be closed from mountaineers pending the rehabilitation of the mountain after the burning incident.

Elera explained that there are six active trails going to the peak, including the Kapatagan trail in Digos City. Other trails are located in Sta. Cruz, Kidapawan City, Bansalan, Makilala and Magpet.

The local authorities and other stakeholders were also re-assessing if the Mt. Apo International Boulder Face Challenge will push through. The event spearheaded by the Department of Tourism was earlier planned to be conducted via Sta. Cruz trail.

Bacus also urged the trekkers to be responsible in protecting and preserving the mountain to prevent from causing fire in the mountain. “Climbers have to strictly follow the policies and rules and regulations,” he said.

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