Another bush fire hits tree plantation

Another bush fire hits tree plantation

20 April 2012

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Philippines — CEBU CITY — A second bush fire broke out in as many weeks in the Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve (BWFR), where a fight to protect biodiversity is ongoing.

The fire does not threaten any homes, but it hampers the natural growth of indigenous trees within the watershed.

“Since the area is a plantation, there are no dwelling places that would be affected.

“So the damage is to the humus that could be transformed into organic matter, which contributes to the natural process or cycle,” said Socorro Atega, Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water (CUSW) director.

The CUSW is a non-government organization involved in efforts to preserve the Buhisan Watershed, Metro Cebu’s main source of ground water. The watershed is part of the 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape.

Atega said that in Barangay Toong, Cebu City, which is located within the watershed and hosts a large teak plantation, the people have grown used to the fires.

“Tungod sa liter sa teak, if you refer to the DENR, heat and lit cigarettes thrown in the area of dried leaves could start a fire. So it (bush fires) have a human factor,” said Atega.

Marili Ortiz, of the Community Environment and Natural Office (Cenro) and a Barangay Toong resident, reported that a bush fire hit a one-hectare area of the teak plantation Thursday afternoon.

The 54-year-old Toong resident said she passed by the forest past 3 p.m. on her way home from work and saw the fire starting. An hour later, she returned to the site and saw three forest guards, accompanied by a policeman assigned in Barangay Toong, putting out the bush fire.

“Nagtuo ka’g dali ra patyon ang kayo pero lisod kayo (You might think the fire would be easy to put out, but it wasn’t),” Ortiz said.

In an interview, barangay captain Teotimo L. Bacalso said he attended a three-day seminar that just concluded Thursday afternoon, so he was unaware of the bush fire.

Bacalso said they are always prepared for any fires and have fire extinguishers ready.

He also said that the residents, who are used to the bush fires that occur every time the hot season comes, help put out the fires in any way they can.

Ortiz suggested that the best way is to put up a barrier of dried leaves to block the rapid spreading of flames. One can simply stomp on the flames or bring water and splash it on the affected area.

Flor Rosales, a technical officer of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), said these bush fires are harmful to the environment since it damages mostly the newly planted trees.

Rosales said they have yet to survey if the affected hectare is a part of the PBSP reforestation site.

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