December 8, 2023

Anyone caught burning a protected forest in Kapangan, Benguet will have to plant 1,000 seedlings of trees, according to the town’s recently approved ordinance.

In the Forest Fire Prevention Ordinance 2023 of Kapangan, any violator shall plant 1,000 seedlings for every one hectare depending on the species and plant types within the burned area.

Any violator will also be penalized P1,000 for first offense, P2,000 for second and P2,500 for the third offense or imprisonment of six months at the discretion of the court.

The planting shall be strictly monitored by representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, municipal and barangay officials, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police and other concerned agencies. 

The ordinance will also penalize individuals who conduct irresponsible kaingin, charcoal production, burning of grasslands, smoking of honeycombs, indiscriminate throwing of lighted cigarette butts along roads and forest areas which results in forest or brush fires within private or communal lands.

Kapangan has an estimate of 45 hectares of forest burned annually during the dry season, starting from October to May.

“The sangguniang bayan deemed it necessary to adopt measures to protect the environment and bring to justice any person involved in indiscriminate burning of private or communal forest, and other protected areas,” the ordinance states. 

The town council has set measures when it comes to using and developing natural resources within the municipality.

For kaingin or slash and burn farming, the ordinance stated that this is only allowed within existing farms or cleared areas that were used or currently in use as such. It should also be registered with the barangay and has a well-defined fire line prior to any burning activities.

For the smoking of honeycombs, individuals must first secure a permit to gather honey from the office of the punong barangay to monitor the activity in the area.

Auxiliary firefighting groups shall also be organized, trained, and equipped for them to respond in times of fire emergencies. – Ofelia C. Empian