DENR execs alarmed by forest ruin due to wildfires
published by Sun Star Pampanga
By Marna H. Dagumboy
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Environment authorities here expressed alarm over the destruction caused by wildfires in the remaining forests of Central Luzon, warning that provinces with large tracts of grasslands near forest areas are most prone to fire breakouts this summer.
Regidor De Leon, executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here, said he has placed under fire alert the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Bulacan, and Tarlac which have large tracts of grasslands adjacent to natural forests and established forest plantations.
“Forest fires commonly occur in grasslands where there is a large volume of fuel and dry matter,” he explained, saying the fires usually spread out fast in nearby forests causing massive destruction.
He said forest fires account for about 64 percent of the region’s total deforestation rate of some 4,000 hectares annually, or about 2,500 hectares, adding that a total of 388,863 hectares of grassland areas and 58,672 hectares of forest plantations in Central Luzon are prone to wildfires.
“Forestry experts estimate that without government’s reforestation and protection efforts, Central Luzon’s forest cover would have been gone by 2050,” he said.
As this developed, deputy director for forestry Ricardo Calderon said the DENR has fielded 261 forest protection officers and fire-fighting crew in fire-prone areas in Central Luzon in anticipation of this year’s summer fires.
“Forest fires usually break out during the months of February until May when there is very little rainfall. Wind direction and type of vegetation determine how fast and how far forest fires would spread,” he said.
Calderon urged people’s organizations involved in Community-Based Forest Management Program (CBFMP) and holders of other forest management agreements to speed-up the establishment of fire and green breaks in their plantations and to activate their fire protection patrols.
He appealed to local government units (LGUs) and communities near forest areas to watch out for fire breakouts, saying public vigilance is necessary to enable DENR to respond quickly in fire emergencies.
Last year’s forest fires in Central Luzon destroyed a total of 99 hectares of forest plantations valued at P2 million, down from 2,462 hectares worth P10 million in 2003.
Calderon attributed last year’s low forest fire incidents to improved fire management and fire fighting techniques employed by DENR, saying local governments and ordinary citizens have been particularly cooperative in government’s fire prevention campaign..
DENR records show that only 433,276 hectares out of 963,120 hectares of forestlands in Central Luzon have adequate forest cover, or about 45 percent.