May 19, 2024

A total of 274 hectares and 500 square meters of forest in Benguet were burned from January to March this year, the Bureau of Fire and Protection-Benguet reported.
Most of the recent forest fires were recorded in Ambuklao, Bokod affecting 224 hectares while the other areas are in Itogon, Tublay, and Kapangan BFP-Benguet Director, Supt. Rogelio Nigos reported during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting.
Nigos said affected forests during the same period in 2021 were 10 hectares.
Nigos informed the PPOC they are hard up in prosecuting individuals suspected of starting forest fires because of the lack of witnesses.
“We are not able to gather any witness, hence there is no testimony so we cannot prove no arson was committed in our forests,” Nigos said. 
He urged the residents to cooperate with the BFP and other law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of those who started the forest fires.
Nigos said some residents near the areas of forest fire incidents do not cooperate with them for various reasons. He said there are those scared to talk while some do not want to be bothered.
Another challenge is there is no real-time reporting of forest fires to their office, as most incidents are reported days or a week after the incident happened which allows the fire to spread into the forest.
During fire suppression, their teams would hike and use swatters and make fire lines to control the fire since they cannot bring fire trucks in far-flung areas.
He said forest fires may not necessarily start due to arson but because of self-combustion of the dried leaves coupled with the heat especially during the dry season.
Nigos said they will strengthen their partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources since they have their own forest guards. 
No casualties were reported in these incidents. – Ofelia C. Empian