Thursday, August 14, 2014

DENR-Bicol intensifies anti-'kaingin' drive as wild fire preventive measure

 Rapu-Rapu, Albay bush fire
August 3, 2014
Photo: Shanti Nacion Serrano


LEGAZPI CITY (PNA)—Accusing fingers point to "kaingin" (slash and burn) farming system as the principal suspect in the recent series of wild fires in some Bicol forested areas, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office based here to embark into a more intensified move against this prohibited use of the forest.

Kaingin or slash-and-burn farming refers to the common system of clearing areas for two purposes--cultivation and cutting trees that are burnt into charcoal.

Both purposes are sources of livelihood for some residents of barangays covering timberlands and forests areas in Bicol.

Kaingineros cultivate the area until such time that the soil is no longer good for planting, then transfer to another area that is again cleared and fell trees, burn these and sold as charcoal.

Unfortunately, this practice had, in the past few days or shortly after typhoon "Glenda" ravaged most parts of the region last July 15, been the main suspect in the series of wild conflagrations that had engulfed several forests and bushes in Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur.

DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales on Wednesday said he had already directed the Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs) in all the six Bicol provinces to mobilize their forest rangers into an intensified campaign to suppress kaingin system in their respective areas of responsibility.

If necessary, court charges for violations of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Code of the Philippines should be filed against kaingineros caught.

Imprisonment and fines await violators of this Code, Gonzales said.

While forest protection law enforcers are focused on illegal logging, particularly that a total logging ban is in effect all over the country as declared in 2011 by Pres. Benigno Aquino III, “we are now also focusing our attention on kaingin that is more dangerous than logging”, he said.

In logging, he explained, chances are high that there are seeds left over after the cutting of a certain tree which will sprout anytime to replace the one taken out.

But in kaingin, there will never be a chance that trees of its kind will sprout again after the area is burned, especially when it causes wild fires, Gonzales added.

It also contributes to soil erosion, habitat loss for wild animals and ultimate environmental collapse within the area, he said.

All these negative effects are expected to prevail in areas recently razed by the recent wild fires such as in the island-town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay, that destroyed last August 1 to 8 some 3,100 hectares of forested areas and threatened the densely populated downtown area of the island-town.

Last Aug. 4, five separate but simultaneous fire incidents—one in Cagraray Island of Bacacay town; another one at the Mayon Volcano Natural Park within the municipality of Sto. Domingo; Cayaban Mountain, Manito; Barangay Putsan, Tiwi; and Barangay Guadalupe, Rapu-Rapu also took place, turning to ashes vast forest and bush areas.

On Aug. 8, a fire also broke out at the forest of Mt. Isarog National Park along the municipalities of Calabanga and Tinambac in the province of Camarines Sur.

It destroyed around 150 hectares of woodland within the government protected park.

As fires raged in those areas, similar incidents were also reported in Sorsogon City and its nearby town of Casiguran that destroyed a total of about 100 hectares of cogonal areas, coconut plantations and root crop farms.

The Casiguran fire took place for three days last week in Barangay Inlagadian that is situated near the foot of Mt. Bulusan, following the Sorsogon City incident that engulfed for five days a forested site covered by the Bacon-Manito geothermal energy reservation in barangays Osiao and Sto Niño, both in Bacon District, according to a belated report reaching here Wednesday from the Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The Casiguran Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also said over the week that two more bush fires were recently reported at the vast mountainous areas of barangays Sta. Cruz and San Pascual, destroying farms of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“We have also alerted local authorities including barangay officials into becoming more vigilant against similar incidences that should be immediately reported to proper agencies for prompt response,” Gonzales said.

The DENR has also intensified its Climate Change Advisory Campaign to raise public awareness on the serious effect of the global warming which weather experts say is increasing the frequency and severity of bushfires and will lead to increased days of extreme fire danger.

It is also high time for the public to be more responsible in dealing with the environment and get rid of illegal forest activities, Gonzales said.

“Our forests could easily catch fire nowadays because there are huge volume of dried leaves and branches of trees scattered around due to typhoon Glenda” he said.

The region has a total of 543,000 hectares of forest land, out of which only 155,689 hectares have remained forested as of 2011.

“We are now hurrying up the organization and training of the Regional Forest Fire Respond Team (RFFRT) so that they are immediately dispatched as anti-forest fire vanguards,” Gonzales said.

The RFFRT is part of the DENR-Bureau of Fire Protection tie-up recently forged to enable a sustained and pro-active forest conservation and management protocol, he added. (PNA) 
Danny O. Calleja
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