Burning at Mt. Apo foothills raises concerns

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 March) – Businessman Philip Sonny Dizon on Wednesday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to act on the continued burning of bushes at sitios located at the boundary of Davao City and Davao del Sur.

During the weekly “Wednesday’s Habi at Kape” at the Abreeza Mall, Dizon, farmer and president of the American Chamber of Commerce-Davao City chapter, estimated that the forest fires affected about 100 hectares in the highland Brgy. Sibulan, this city, and Brgy. Kapatagan in Digos City that sit at the foothills of Mt. Apo.

Dizon, who grows coffee and operates the Mt. Apo Highland Resort in Brgy. Kapatagan, said he started to notice the forest fires since November last year and ongoing until today.

He said that the farmers who live in those two barangays are deliberately burning the plants to expand their farms.

“The problem is that nobody is telling them to not burn,” he said.

Fire incidents in the Davao Region from January to February 2016 increased by more than half with 207 cases as compared to 129 of the same period last year, according to Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 11.

Based on the bureau’s documents, the total cost of damages were placed at P20.9 million, slightly lower than last year’s P22.5 million.

Fire Insp. Nestor Jimenez, chief of BFP 11’s operations division, said the number grassfires spiked the highest with 85 cases, which grew by more than four folds from last year’s 20 incidents.

“The fire incidents here are very alarming because of El Nino. If we are smoking, let’s make sure that we put out the cigarette first before we throw it because the grasses are so dry because of El Nino,” he said in a press conference.

The El Nino, or the long dry spell, is forecast to last until June.

From January to February this year, fires caused by unattended candles were about 10 where one such incident claimed an 84-year-old victim in Mankilam, Tagum City.

There were two other casualties recorded with seven victims injured, recorded from January to February fire incidents as compared to the same period last year with only three injured,

He said the bureau has lined up activities in celebration of the fire protection month in March dubbed as “Kaalaman at Pagtutulungan ng Sambayanan, Kaligtasan sa Sunog ay Makakamtan.”

Some of these activities include a five-day Fire Exit Drill and Earthquake Drill week to be observed in the region’s public and private schools, and government and private establishments on March 2 to 6; house-to-house fire safety inspection on March 7 to 31 “on single and two family dwellings”; March 14 to 16, a three-day open house of all fire stations for invited school children in area of responsibilities; and fire safety awareness campaign through conduct of fire drills and lectures.

BFP 11 recorded a total of 976 fire incidents from January to November 2015, with damage estimated at P258.304 million, while 694 cases were recorded for the same period in 2014.