- The hikers may face up to P18-million fine and prison time for causing the wildfire in Mt. Pulag
- Under the Forest code, anyone who causes fire in forests will be jailed for less than six years and shall pay eight times the cost of the damage
- The wildfire began when the hikers’ butane gas stove exploded and one of them threw the stove to a nearby grassland
A group of hikers from Cebu who triggered the Mt. Pulag fire early this year may face huge penalties.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has formally filed a complaint in the Benguet Prosecutor’s Office against seven hikers. The hikers triggered a forest fire that damaged 5.9 hectares of grassland at Mount Pulag; mostly planted with dwarf bamboo.
The group of hikers is facing charges against violation of Section 69 of Presidential Decree No. 705, or the Forest Code of the Philippines.
Under the decree, any person who “sets a fire or negligently permits fire to be set in any forest could be jailed for less than six years and shall pay eight times the cost of the damage.”
Supt. Teber Dionisio of Mt. Pulag National Park was quoted by ABS-CBN saying, “Upon inventory, na-compute po namin o na-estimate. ‘Yung plants ng bamboo costing P50. Ang estimated cost po natin ay 2.3 million pesos (ang napinsala).” [Upon our inventory, we computed the estimate. The bamboo plants cost P50. The estimated cost of damage is P2.3 million pesos.]
Following the Forest code, the group may face up to P18-million fine.
Initial investigations in January revealed that the hikers were cooking rice when their butane gas stove exploded. One of them accidentally threw the burning stove towards a grassy area, causing the fire to spread. They have expressed their regret over the incident.