The mosquito-borne disease is endemic in 48 barangays around the province's border villages where indigenous peoples live, health officials said.
Ibalio said the barangays are home to most of the 1,472 positive cases of malaria detected in the province from 2003 to 2007.
Worldwide, 1.1 million persons die from malaria each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Reuben Babanto, Provincial Health Office Malaria coordinator, said at least 80 percent of those who were detected to have malaria came from barangays in Damulog, Kitaotao and San Fernando.
The health officials clarified the problem could be addressed by educating villagers on the use of mosquito nets side by side with residual spraying in slow flowing bodies of water and other mosquito habitats.
World Malaria Day will be observed for the first time in the Philippines on April 25 with the theme "Malarya, dakong hulga sa katawhan: kinahanglan batokan" (Malaria a big threat to the people: it should be stopped).
A total of 1,211 out of 1,472 malaria cases from 2003 to 2007 was found in the three towns cited above, using the Rapid Detection Tests (RDTs).
Ibalio said the sharp increase in detection from 2004 to 2005 was due to the availability of resources to conduct RDTs in the villages previously difficult to reach.
She cited the entry of Global Fund Malaria Program in 2004, when health education was intensified and funds to distribute free mosquito nets were available.
The project focused on seven areas based on the number of cases provided by the local health networks. These areas include Damulog, San Fernando, Kitaotao, Kibawe, Quezon, Malaybalay and Cabanglasan.
Ibalio said the location of where many of the IPs live is a major reason why many of them are stricken with malaria. He said forested and semi-forested areas, common in remote villages, are breeding places of malaria –carrying mosquitoes.
She said many people in IP communities are yet to value using mosquito nets at night.
"Those who do not use nets are at risk of getting malaria," Ibalio told MindaNews.
She said even soldiers who do not use nets while on duty and patrol could also be stricken.
Persons working in the forests, even if they don't live there could also get infected once bitten by mosquitoes there, Ibalio said.
Officials said they are targeting the use of nets by at least 85 percent of the total population in any village, to cut the risk of malaria.
The health officials announced they had been doing joint border malaria operations in identified highly endemic areas along with local government units and health offices of neighboring provinces such as Davao del Norte, Davao City, Agusan del Sur, North Cotabato and Misamis Oriental.
Ibalio said the effort has produced results with the growing rate of early detection and treatment. She cited the usefulness of 14 community-based health workers who were trained to use the RDT in remote villages.
Babanto also announced that instead of fragmented attention by separate teams working on different mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue; they have now fused into synchronized operations to be called DOH Mosquito-born Disease Control.
Babanto said they had been receiving support from the local government units but Ibalio stressed the need to continue lobbying for LGUs to increase budget for health. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)