The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is calling on the public to be vigilant against forest fires especially during the onset of the El Niño.
DENR-Cordillera Regional Strategic Communication and Initiatives Group head Elizabeth Antolin particularly urged parents or guardians to watch over their children, and ensure that they will not play with matches or lighters to prevent any accident
Antolin said most of the reports they received on forest fires involved children who played with matches or lighters.
“Agtitinnulong tayo. Iwasan kuma dagiti ubbing nga agpuor iti bantay,” Antolin appealed.
She also emphasized that smokers must dispose cigarette butts properly because tossing it anywhere can start a fire. Proper disposal of cigarette butts does not only prevent fires, but also helps in maintaining a clean and safe environment for everyone.
Antolin also reminded hikers or campers to avoid lighting bonfires in the forests or grasslands to prevent accidental fires.
Data of the Bureau of Fire Protection showed that forest fires in Cordillera increased to 100 in 2023 from 41 in 2022. Grassfires also increased to 62 from 22 incidents in 2022.
DENR-CAR Senior Forest Management Specialist Maricel Paquitol shared about the ordinance of Licuan-Baay, Abra that other local government units may follow to combat forest fires.
In 2019, the Sangguniang Bayan of Licuan-Baay passed an ordinance that allotted funds for the procurement of firefighting tools and the construction of water impounding structures, among others, as a fire mitigation measure.
Based on Pagasa forecast, by the end of January 2024, Abra, Ifugao, and Mountain Province will be in dry spell condition, while Benguet, Kalinga, and Apayao will be in drought condition.
To mitigate the effects of dry spell and drought, Antolin also advised the public to conserve water. – Debbie E. Gasingan