Philippines — BACOLOD CITYAn assortment of trees from 15 endemic species were destroyed on Thursday when three fires hit the reforestation areas in Barangay (village) Minoyan, Murcia town, about 15 kilometers east of this city.
Local officials suspected arson, saying the fires might have been started by people who wanted to occupy the reforestation area.
We will arrest those responsible and arson charges will be filed against them, said Jose Ma. Valencia, chief of staff of Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.
He said members of the Murcia police, Task Force Ilhas and the Philippine Army worked together to put out the blaze.
The Task Force Ilhas is a special environment protection enforcement unit of the provincial government composed of policemen and employees of the Provincial Environment Management Office.
He said the two fires hit the 25-hectare reforestation area of the Negros Occidental provincial government around 6 a.m. and destroyed five hectares of newly planted trees.
As the two fires were being put out at 11 a.m., another fire broke out at the 50-hectare reforestation site of the EDC. The third fire destroyed 10 hectares of about three-year-old trees, Valencia said.
The endemic trees planted at the reforestation sites are lawaan and apitong.
Valencia said millions of pesos had been spent on reforestation sites in Murcia, a watershed of the province.