MANILA - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday said it would sue at least 7 hikers from Cebu for causing the blaze inside the Mt. Pulag National Park in Benguet that "endangered" people and forest resources.
"Seven mountaineers led by a certain Kristomar Mackay could face criminal charges for violation of Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, and Presidential Decree No. 75, also known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines," said Ralph Pablo, regional director of the DENR office in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The hikers may be criminally liable for "negligently causing a fire within forest or grazing lands" as prescribed under the Revised Forestry Code's Section 78.
Last week, at least 5 hectares of grasslands stretching from the Saddle Camp Site to the mountain's northeastern slopes were razed after a butane gas stove brought by the hikers exploded.
The Mount Pulag National Park management said the affected area would be closed to hikers for six months.
"The DENR recognizes the impact the fire had on the national park and we will pursue all legal avenues to bring those responsible to account," Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement.
Additional requirements for mountaineers, such as bringing mandatory portable fire extinguishers, are also being considered by the DENR.
"The DENR is mandated to protect Mt. Pulag, but it is imperative that hikers and visitors do their part as well,” Cimatu said.
“Mt. Pulag has one of the richest biodiversities from the foot of the mountain to its summit and we must all be responsible agents for its conservation," he added.