Kidapawan City considers closure of Mount Apo amid dry spell
In this file photo from March 20, 2008, Mount Apo is seen from Lake Venado in Cotabato province.
Kleomarlo CC BY-SA 3.0

Kidapawan City considers closure of Mount Apo amid dry spell

John Unson (Philstar.com) - March 6, 2019 - 10:46am

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — Mount Apo may be closed to mountaineers to prevent brush fires on the mountain's grasslands, which have not felt rain since February.

Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista said in a statement Wednesday that members of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council are evaluating potential fire hazards amid forecasts of a prolonged dry spell in Mindanao because of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

El Niño is felt in the Philippines through a delayed onset of the rainy season and weak monsoon activity, according to weather bureau Pagasa.

Thousands of mountaineers from across the country and from abroad climb Mount Apo during the dry season.

Kidapawan City is the gateway to Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak with an elevation of 2,956 meters above sea level.

The mountain ranges surrounding Apo are forested watersheds from where spring dozens of rivers and creeks that flow downstream to Kidapawan City and neighboring towns.

Large patches of forests and grasslands around Mount Apo were ravaged by fire in 2016.

Evangelista said they are now coordinating their efforts to protect the mountain from bush fires with the Protected Areas Management Board and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In January 2018, a brushfire on Mount Pulag in Benguet damaged more than five hectares of grassland on the second-highest mountain in the Philippines. Some areas of Pulag were closed to tourists for months to allow the vegetation to grow back.

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