The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the government cannot just allow the gains in reforestation to go up in smoke for lack of measures to avoid forest fires.
DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said that on top of the measures is the augmentation of forest rangers under the Bantay Gubat component.
In a DENR press release, Atienza said some 59,000 forest rangers are expected to be hired by the agency this year under the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) of President Gloria Arroyo.
Atienza said there are about 3,000 regular forest rangers as of this time.
To date, the forest protection ratio per forest ranger stands at 2,133 hectares per forest ranger and according to DENR’s Forest Management Bureau (FMB), the numbers should be brought down to anywhere between 250-300 hectares per forest guard.
Atienza said even with an augmented workforce, there is still a need be pro-active, as forest fires result from the increased gathering activities inside forested areas, besides the rising temperatures caused by global warming.
DENR has estimated losses due to forest fires to at least P10 million every year, with an aggregate area of 31,595 hectares lost to forest from 2000-2008, costing the government some P173.2 million.
Atienza has ordered other defensive measures for the DENR regional offices to undertake, which includes construction of water impounding structures to trap and store water from rainfalls, creeks and rivers, clearing of new grass or brushes in existing 3-5-meter wide buffer fire lines inside tree plantations, inventory of all firefighting tools and regular holding of forest fire drills with forest-based communities involved in the DENR’s community-based programs.
The DENR has identified the 59,111 Bantay Gubat additional wprkers, dubbed as Green Collar Jobs as irs contribution to the CLEEP, to pump prime the economic activity in rural areas, to address the global; economic crisis and the adverse effects of climate change.