The CRDRRMC chaired by OCD-CAR Regional Director Albert Mogol with the Philippine Air Force conducted on Wednesday Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDANA) through aerial inspection of the areas damaged by the massive fire incidents in Benguet.
CDENR-CAR Regional Director Ralph Pablo reported that different fire incidents in almost all the municipalities in Benguet since January 2020 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 the city of 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 the Mount Pulag, and the mountain 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 appeals to the public to stop their practice of kaingin farming system. He also called on the community and barangays officials in the affected areas thru their respective Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Teams to put out the fire initially while the fire incidents are still small.
“As barangay officials, they should be the first responders to these incidents of forest fires,” Pablo said.
Mogol supported the appeal of Pablo noting that suppressing forest fires is very challenging in the Cordillera region due to the mountainous terrain and roads 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.
The RDANA, a response tool providing a quick snapshot of the disaster situation that determine the type and extent of damages, was led by Mogol and Pablo with BFP-CAR Regional Director FSSupt. Roderick Ramirez, DPWH-CAR Regional Director Tiburcio Canlas, and representatives from the DILG and PIA and the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group – 1 based in Loakan Airport. (JDP/RMC- PIA CAR)
By Redjie Melvic M. Cawis