Philippines — During the dry season, bush fires are a constant problem for government planners working on reforestation projects. It becomes worse when there’s El Niño.
Near the National Greening Project (NGP) sites in Negros Oriental province, communities have come up with a novel idea to fight bush fire in the most remote mountain areas that trucks cannot reach. They have organized volunteers who are armed with portable water containers, hoses, and horses.
The Asosasyon sa Katawhan sa Lamigan, Nabhang ug Banban Nga Nagkahiusa (AKALABANAN) is a peoples organization based in Ayungon, Negros Oriental. It is a partner of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-VII).
The group purchased 10 local-bred horses to help forest guards patrol their tree plantations consisting mostly of lauan. These plantations are harvested and replanted in a sustainable cycle for commercial use.
The horses allow firefighters reach the remotest areas that are not accessible by motorcycles and trucks.
The group also constructed two watchtowers in strategic areas within the plantations.
We are very happy to know that our partner AKALABANAN is one with us in the protection of our established forest plantations, this is a very welcome initiative and we wish to share this to other partner POs, said Dr Isabelo Montejo, DENR VII Regional Executive Director.
Montejo blamed the carelessness and irresponsible activities of humans that possibly cause the forest fires. They include lighted cigarette butts thrown away, a campfire with live cinder or charcoal left by hunters or campers, and a pasture land burned to improve livestock grazing.
DENR Central Visayas has identified NGP plantations in the region that are critical areas or forest fire hotspots. They include the ones in the upland areas of Argao and Oslob towns in Cebu; Ubay, Buenavista, Getafe, Pilar, and Talibon in Bohol; and Ayungon and Bindoy in Negros Oriental.
Community-based forest rangers, the Bantay Lasang, are among those tasked to watch over these tree plantations.
We’ve poured in a lot of funds to maintain and grow these plantations. It would be a sad situation when our reforestation initiatives turn into ashes, he added.