February 3, 2023

The Bureau of Fire Protection-Cordillera is working on intensifying the implementation of environment and other related laws in its efforts to bring to zero the incidents of forest fires in the region.
Fire S/Supt. Roderick Esteban Ramirez, BFP-Cordillera director, said many areas in the Cordillera, particularly in Benguet, are devastated due to forest fires caused by intentional burning or kaingin.
He said they found this based on their aerial inspection during which they documented the extent of devastation of forested mountains due to fire. So far, 56 incidents of forest fires have been recorded this year as of March 10, which amount to P3,133,780 worth of damage.
While the number is lower compared to the same period in 2019 with 128 incidents worth P6.2 million in damage, Ramirez said the extent of damage is significant, since the goal should be no forests or pine trees would be destroyed or intentionally set on fire.
He said they plan to bring the matter to the attention of concerned agencies including the Office of the President to possibly come up with more penalties for kaingeros.
Ramirez said they are working on intensifying the implementation of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree 705, in coordination with the Philippine National Police and Office of Civil Defense, and initially with provincial officials of Benguet and Mountain Province so that the law’s provisions would be strictly enforced.
Section 78 of PD 705 provides, among others, that an offender found guilty of making kaingin shall be meted imprisonment for not less than two years but not more than four years and a fine equal to eight times the regular forest charges due on the forest products destroyed, without prejudice to the payment of the full cost of production of the occupied area.
He added they are also discussing ways of addressing concerns such as the lack of suitable fire trucks, the unique terrains in the Cordillera, and insufficient readily available sources of water for quick response to fire incidents especially in remote areas.
The country observes March as Fire Prevention Month. This year’s theme is “Matuto ka, sunog iwasan na.” – Hanna C. Lacsamana