THE THREE trails in Cotabato going up to Mt. Apo have been temporarily closed to avoid forest fires amid the ongoing dry spell brought about by El Niño. The closure, which takes effect immediately, was approved by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in a meeting last March 8. The three trails have entry points from the towns of Makilala and Magpet, and Kidapawan City. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 12 (DENR-12), in a statement, said all “trekking, climbing, camping and tree planting activities” will not be allowed until weather bureau PAGASA “lifts its advisory on El Niño in Western Mindanao.” Based on PAGASA’s El Niño Climate Outlook for Mindanao Advisory No. 4, the dry spell will likely “continue until April- May-June 2019 season, and various climate models prediction still suggest the likely persistence of dry condition, dry spell and drought over most areas in Mindanao in March- April-May 2019, as Philippine climate move towards the dry season.” Mt. Apo Natural Park, the country’s highest peak, suffered forest fires in March 2016 and recently this month in some areas of Matalam, Cotabato.