February 22, 2024

The Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera are calling on the community to help in the prevention forest fires.
The CRDRRMC chaired by Office of the Civil Defense-Cordillera Director Albert Mogol with the Philippine Air Force conducted Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDANA) through aerial inspection of the areas damaged by the massive fire incidents in Benguet.
DENR Director Ralph Pablo reported  that different fire incidents in  almost all the municipalities in Benguet since January have damaged more than 1,000 hectares of  forest lands with cost of damages estimated at more than P2 million.  
At least 10 municipalities in Benguet including Baguio have been affected by the forest fire incidents. Only Mankayan, Kapangan, and Sablan remain free from forest fires.
Mostly affected were areas Kabayan and Bokod near Mount Pulag and the mountains of Bakun and Kibungan. Ongoing fires were monitored in areas of Itogon, Tuba, and Kabayan.
Pablo said that almost all of the forest fires were caused by the kaingin system or the slash and burn practice of farmers. It was observed that most of the areas affected by forest fires in Benguet are expansion of vegetable gardens or farmlands.
“These forest fires are intentional. Sinadya ‘yang sunugin para gawing vegetable gardens,” Pablo said, stressing  that the burning incidents damaged the watershed areas and forests which the DENR is maintaining and sustaining thru its various programs such as the National Greening Program.
Pablo appealed to the public to the kaingin farming system.
He also called on the community and barangays officials in the affected areas through their respective barangay disaster risk reduction and management teams to put out the fire while these are still small.
“As barangay officials, they should be the first responders to these incidents of forest fires,” Pablo said.
Mogol supported the appeal noting that suppressing forest fires is challenging in the Cordillera due to the mountainous terrain and the roads are inaccessible for fire trucks and other assets of the BFP.
“We need the participation of each member of the community; they should help us in preventing this kind of incidents that lead to the destruction of the forests and the environment,” Mogol said.
Mogol and Pablo led the RDANA, a response tool providing a quick snapshot of the disaster situation that determines the type and extent of damages, together with BFP-Cordillera Director S/Supt. Roderick Ramirez, Department of Public Works and Highways-Cordillera Director Tiburcio Canlas, and representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Information Agency, and the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group-1 based at the Loakan Airport. – Redjie Melvic M. Cawis