GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 April) – At least 53 hectares of tree plantations here and the neighboring areas have been devastated due to major grassfires in the last several weeks.
Wahid Amella, acting head of the Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO), said the affected tree plantations covered project sites of their continuing community reforestation program.
He said their assessment showed that around 26,500 trees were burned down by the intermittent grassfires, which mainly affected both upland and lowland areas.
“The affected areas are distributed in our projects sites and the burned trees are considered as totally destroyed,” he said in an interview over a local television station.
Amella said they could not determine whether the grassfires were intentional but noted that the plantation sites were rendered vulnerable to the prevailing dry condition.
He said there were some grassfires that were traced to charcoal-making and other related activities of some residents.
Citing their field monitoring these past weeks, he said there were instances wherein the area was hit by severe dry weather that could be likened to a heat wave.
Such phenomenon, as aided by strong winds, could have sparked some of the major grassfires in the area, he said.
“There are several factors that could have led to the grass fires but they were clearly aggravated by the dry condition,” he said.
The official was referring to the continuing dry spell in the area that started to intensify in January.
The dry spell was triggered by the onset of a mild El Niño Phenomenon that has been affecting parts of the country.
El Niño is a phenomenon caused by the abnormal warming of the central and eastern Pacific waters, generally manifests in a dry spell, or below normal rainfall, usually following wet conditions.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration had identified this city and parts of Region 12 as among the most vulnerable areas in terms of the adverse impact of the El Niño.
Amella said they are currently growing seedlings at their nursery to replace the destroyed trees.
He said they recently acquired seeds for various tree species from a supplier in Compostela Valley Province.
The seedlings will later be distributed to their partner people’s organizations (POs), which will lead the replanting of trees in the affected reforestation sites.
He added that the POs have expressed willingness to replant or replace the destroyed trees as it was also provided in their project contract with the agency. (MindaNews)