BAGUIO CITY — Less than two months since the start of the year, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has recorded a high number of incidence of forest fire in the Cordilleras due tokaingin (slash and burn farming) as compared to 2018.
“There were 55 cases of forest fires recorded from January 1 to February 23,” said Chief Insp. Glenn Pang-et, BFP-CAR Intelligence and Investigation Section chief.
Data from the BFP regional office show that this is over a third of the 151 incidents of forest fire recorded in 2018 — a total of 20,880 hectares of forest were burned last year.
Pang-et added that there were 178 incidents in 2016, affecting 6,113 hectares of forest land; and 64 incidents in 2017, which burned an area of 13,509 hectares.
He said the BFP is still investigating the 55 forest fires recorded since the start of the year to determine the actual size of the damaged area.
Based on a separate report from Benguet provincial environment office, on February 20, a forest fire gutted the forestry area being maintained by Philex Mining Corporation and killed five persons, three of whom are employees of the company tasked to maintain the area.
The other fire incidents reported over the past weeks were the burning of grassland and vegetation of the Akiki trail area at Mount Pulag, particularly in Kabayan, Benguet, which lasted for a week from January 31 to February 6.
The incident damaged more than four hectares of vegetation, which has yet to recover from a fire incident in 2017 caused by irresponsible trekkers.
On February 2, another fire damaged a two-hectare area in Mount Yangbew in La Trinidad.
On February 5, a forest fire also damaged around four hectares in Barangay Ampusongan in Bakun, Benguet.
Several other forest fires were recorded in different provinces of the Cordillera Region, which are still being investigated and consolidated by the BFP.
The BFP-CAR is looking at kaingin or farm clearing in the mountains to give way to vegetable farms, which is the primary cause of the forest fire incidents.
The BFP had repeatedly urged the public not to start a fire in the open mountain areas as it can go wild and unmanageable due to the wind.
The BFP-CAR officers, in earlier interviews, also repeatedly urged farmers to stop the practice of kaingin as most them oftentimes lead to bigger and uncontrollable forest fires.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to appeal to the communities in Benguet to put a stop to burning forest lands.
Benguet Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Carlos Arida said the practice of upland farming or the conversion of forest lands to agricultural lands, using the traditional kaingin, has become a problem in the different parts of the province since the start of the year.
Arida said that based on the reports of the BFP, several incidents of uncontrolled fires in forested areas and tourist destination mountains in the province were mostly due to kaingin.
He said that the DENR would be monitoring the areas damaged by forest fires to see the situation to allow them to plan for their rehabilitation.
He added that the agency would intensify its information, education and communication campaign, particularly targeting the upland farmers in efforts to save the remaining forests. PNA – northboundasia.com