Philippines — The rural communities were urged to establish forest fire lines to control and avert wide destruction when fire occurs.
Communities, especially the village officials were also urged to closely coordinate with other concerned government agencies in delineating fire lines, or buffers, and create a village-based firefighting and management system using volunteers such as village watchers the two most practical things to do against forest fires.
As this developed, all field officials and personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were directed to closely coordinate with local government unit (LGU) officials and members of various disaster coordinating councils to map-out forest fire lines to avert loss of lives and destruction of forest and vegetation areas.
The directive of DENR Secretary Horacio C. Ramos to his field officials is to step up efforts to prevent forest fires by strengthening their coordination with concerned local government executives and communities to ensure the safety of people and forest vegetation.
Involving local communities is crucial to prevent and control destructive forest fires. These communities occupy the frontlines in preventing forest fires, said Ramos in an urgent circular, reiterating that the risk of fire had increased as the long dry spell and high temperatures had left large amounts of flammable debris in forest areas.
Ramos also ordered all the regional executive directors to fully optimize the manpower pool of the departments 3,000 regular forest rangers, who will be augmented by emergency laborers hired by the DENR last year under the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) of the government.
Data from the DENRs Forest Management Bureau (FMB) shows that each forest ranger is assigned to patrol around 2,133 hectares.
Even with an augmented workforce, the effort should be very localized because the people who live in the locality know the local conditions best, making it as the most viable alternative to minimize the damage due to fire losses, said Ramos, noting that the strategy hinges mainly on its policy of granting forest stakeholders tenurial instruments over public forest lands that need rehabilitation and protection under the Community-based Forestry Management (CBFM) program.