Philippines — Earth Day is celebrated today in Cebu city amid soaring summer temperatures, a bicycle tour and a second bush fire in the Buhisan watershed.
The weather bureau recorded 33.2 degrees Celsius yesterday, making it the hottest day of the summer, according to weather analyst Boy Artiaga of the Mactan office of Pagasa.
Artiaga said the heat is normal this time of the year but cautioned the public to stay in the shade and drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.
Those with high blood pressure should also stay indoors especially between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the day is at its hottest.
Artiaga said there was no sign of an El Niño phenomenon and that the heat would subside by May 15 when weather experts expect the onset of the rainy season.
Pedal power will be showcased by bicycle enthusiasts in the morning.
Traffic enforcers will be on the street at 7 a.m. to guide hundreds of bicycle riders who will travel a 20-kilometer Earth Day Route that starts and finishes in Plaza Independencia.
Roads are not closed to traffic. Bikers will pass the rightmost lane, said Rafael Yap, executive director of the City Traffic Operations and Management.
A Citom enforcer on motorbike will follow the bicycle teams as they travel through major intersections of JY Square, Gorordo Avenue, Juan Luna Avenue, M.J. Cuenco, Legaspi Extension, Fuente Osmeña, P. del Rosario Avenue, Colon Street and Osmeña Boulevard.
Meanwhile, the two bush fires occurred only four days and a few kilometers apart in barangay Toong in the Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve, the first recorded since 2012.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated, including reports that it could have been intentionally started by dwellers out to cut and harvest damaged trees to make into charcoal.
When Cebu Daily News visited the site, there were dry patches of land littered with fallen brown leaves of old teak trees mixed with newly planted fruit trees.
About two hectares of a reforestation site in the greenbelt buffer zone entering the protected area were burned in the second fire on April 17 in barangay Toong, Cebu City.
About one hectare was in the project site of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) while the remaining one hectare is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Policemen and Toong barangay tanods put out the flames that started about 3 p.m., said DENR 7 Protected Area Superintendent (PASU) Ariel Rica.
Fruit trees like santol, nangka, caimito, kamansi (bread fruit), marang and lumbang were among the damaged trees, said PBSP forester Flor Rosales who showed Cebu Daily News the terrain.
Red flower-bearing fire trees, planted in the first-line boundary of the protected area , were also burned.
Also affected were shrubs like rattan, magay and romblon. These were planted for economic use of farmers, who would be trained on weaving and other livelihood options under a PBSP program, said Flores.
Damaged trees and shrubs were less than two years old. Some were just planted five months ago.
Rosales said after making an inventory, volunteers and PBSP will have to prepare for rehabilitation of the area and replanting again when the rainy season starts.
Barangay Toong has a sloping, steep terrain.
The first fire in early April damaged the lower part. The second fire ate up the upper slopes.
In a press statement about the Toong fires, DENR said the dried leaves during summer should be collected and removed from the site as they are potential source of fire.
It said three aspects have to be considered 1) prevention, (2) detection, and (3) suppression.
Experts have cited the danger of bush or forest fires where there are dried teak trees especially with cigarette butts irresponsibly thrown in the area.
Teak trees are exotic species that were massively planted in past DENR reforestation projects but are no longer continued because they absorb a lot of water.
Since tall teak trees form a canopy with its broad leaves, shrubs cant grow underneath, a factor that leads to soil erosion and eventual siltation of the Buhisan dam.
Rosales confirmed that PBSP and many NGOs dont plant exotic trees and instead focus on planting native tree species that improve biodiversity, as well as revenue-bearing trees and shrubs so that the community can have livelihood opportunities without resorting to cutting down the trees.
The Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve covers 630 hectares mostly in the uplands of Cebu City.
It is one of five protected watersheds in the 28,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).
The others are Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve, Sudlon National Park, Central Cebu National Park and the Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed Forest Reserve.