Philippines — CITY OF MALOLOSAs the summer temperature continues to heat up, environmentalists said patches of forest fires have burned parts of the Ipo Watershed in Bulacan.
The latest fire was observed and documented on Tuesday by Bro. Martin Francisco, BSMP, chairman of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmentalists Society Inc.
Francisco took pictures of the ravaging forest fire inside the watershed at around 11 a.m. on April 2 while he, together with a team from the National Power Corp., was conducting watershed-monitoring operations.
Every year forest fires are deliberately being done inside the Ipo Watershed not only for the charcoal-making business but also to expand the opportunities for the alternative livelihood of the National Greening Program. The bigger the destruction of the forest, the bigger the fund for the reforestation contract that can be availed of, Francisco said in Filipino.
The forest cover on the watershed is already thin and mostly composed of buho, a variety of bamboo, he said, noting that reforestation efforts by different schools and non-governmental organizations are enough to bring back the lost forest cover.
Francisco said, It is a big mistake to think that the lack of trees is the main problem in our mountains. It is not the lack of trees, but there are many who plant on mountain sides and enjoy the funding for planting. Because there is money in planting, nobody wants to leave the area.
An environmentalist, who asked not to be named, also suggested that instead of providing funding for reforestation projects, it is better to give cash incentive for the community to protect their watershed. This is much more realistic rather than greening programs being implemented.
A recent independent report by the UP Mountaineers Environment Committee also said the indigenous peoples in the area, the Dumagats, reported deliberate cutting and burning of trees, both young and old, to make way for new reforestation projects that are a source of income for some unscrupulous persons operating inside the watershed. As it turns out, privately funded reforestation drives have become a source of livelihood for some settlers. They charge a fee for their labor in assisting private groups in their reforestation activities while, at the same time, unscrupulously clearing new areas to encourage more reforestation activities that will ensure their future income, not to mention the extra income they get from selling illegally cut logs in the open market.