MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/07 April) — The Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park approved Wednesday the construction of additional firelines in response to fire incidents that have damaged grasslands and natural forests in parts of the mountain range since February this year.
Ma. Theresa Allen, chief of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office-Bukidnon said the provincial government has committed to allot P5 million from its calamity fund for forest fire suppression as well as firefighting equipment.
Allen said P2.8 million will be spent as cash incentive for local residents who will build the firelines.
The remaining amount will be used to purchase firefighting tools including protective gear like masks and gloves, she added.
Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway, a Talaandig chieftain and PAMB member said it would be hard to convince residents to join in building the firelines without the cash incentive.
“People would hesitate to join because it will mean leaving their work and loss of daily income,” he explained.
Allen said people will be hired on a weekly basis. One thousand workers will be hired on the first week, 500 on the second week, and 250 on the third and fourth weeks.
Aside from building firelines, the PAMB also approved a contingency plan that will include building watch towers, a warning system and a fire preparedness plan.
As approved, the firefighting equipment will include 25 units of power spray to be used in drawing water from rivers.
Allen said they also proposed buying flashlights because it’s ideal to do fire suppression work at night and early in the morning due to cooler temperature.
As of Wednesday, Allen said in a report to the PAMB, fires have burned 72 hectares of natural forest with Libona town accounting for the biggest damage at 70 ha.
But she added that they have yet to determine the extent of damage to natural forests in Malaybalay and Sumilao where forest fires were still ongoing.
For grasslands and buffer zones, the fires destroyed 20 ha in Lantapan and 4 ha in Impasugong. There was no figure yet for Malaybalay.
Allen said fires damaged at least 52 ha in Libona that were reforested under the National Greening Program.
Last week, fires erupted in Barangays Sil-ipon and Capehan in Libona town, Kibenton in Impasugong town, Dalwangan and Imbayao in Malaybalay City, and Songco in Lantapan town.
Mt. Kitanglad Range (47, 270 ha) sits in the northwestern part of Bukidnon. It is considered a significant biodiversity site and the headwaters of several major river systems in Mindanao.
Fires destroyed around 300 ha of grasslands and natural forests in Mt. Kitanglad during the 1998 El Nino.
The biggest damage was recorded during the 1982-83 drought, when around 6,000 ha of forests burned. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)