May 27, 2024
PARTNERS VS FOREST FIRES — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-CAR led by Regional Executive Director Paquito Moreno signed a memorandum of agreement with Benguet Corporation, Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. and Philex Mining Corporation, in a concerted effort to prevent forest fires in the Cordillera especially in Benguet. — DENR-CAR photo

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera entered into a memorandum of agreement on March 27 with four of the top mining companies in the region in a concerted effort to prevent forest fires in the Cordillera, particularly in Benguet.

The MOA was signed with Benguet Corporation, Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc. (ISRI), Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. (LCMC), and Philex Mining Corporation (PMC).

The DENR- CAR was represented by Regional Executive Director Engr. Paquito T. Moreno Jr.; Benguet Corp. by its resident manager, Engr. Valeriano B. Bongalos Jr.; ISRI by its resident manager Eric S. Andal; PMC represented by its resident manager, Engr. Ricardo S. Dolipas II; and LCMC by its mine manager, Engr. Artemios S. Anongos.

MGB- CAR Director Fay W. Apil spearheaded the preparations for the event and served as a witness to the signing of the MOA along with Edgardo S. Flor, the head of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of Benguet.

Moreno reiterated the MOA is not only a piece of paper but rather it is in furtherance of the commitment made to DENR Sec. Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga and its substance provides some handle to rationalize their engagements with respect to forest fires.

Apil said even without the MOA, the mining companies have taken measures against forest fires within their jurisdiction.

However, with the signing of the MOA, the mining communities are encouraged to extend their efforts to prevent forest fires.

Flor emphasized the need for cooperation in forest fire prevention.

“We need all the help we can get as far as these forest fires are concerned,” Flor said.

Before the signing of the MOA, DENR-CAR Legal Division Chief Rainier Laita, presented the status of forest fires in the region.

He reported from 2021 to 2023, a total of 11,239 hectares of forest land were affected by forest fires, 77 percent of which occurred in 2023 alone and 19 percent in 2022. The estimated cost of damage is P163,849,000.

In January and February this year, 5,737.5 hectares were already affected by forest fires with estimated damage of P26 million.

Seventy percent of these fires occurred in Itogon, Bokod, Tuba, and Mankayan, areas which are near enough, if not within mining corporations.

The DENR-CAR acknowledges the invaluable support and participation of the mining companies and mining communities in fire prevention, mitigation and suppression. However, Laita said there is a need to have a unified approach in taking action against these forest fires, hence the agreement. – Press release