Haribon Foundation is pushing for measures to prevent a repeat of the grass fires that scorched the Forests for Life Movement’s (FFL) restoration sites in parts of Laguna and Rizal provinces.
The grass fires occurred in the last week of April and affected FFL’s project sites in Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Barangay Bukal, Nagcarlan; Barangay San Cristobal, San Pablo, Laguna; and in the Yes City in the lands owned by the Rizal government in Barangay San Andres, Tanay, Rizal. The grass fires destroyed more than 22,000 native trees covering a total of 17 hectares.
“The open and denuded areas were reforested from 2015 to 2018 with the support of numerous partners and volunteers from the corporate sector, local and national government agencies, people’s organizations and concerned individuals. These incidents pose an urgent challenge and opportunity to equip stakeholders with appropriate strategies to help prevent and combat forest and grass fires,” Haribon said in a statement.
Haribon said it needs the full support of the government, particularly the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), protected area superintendents, Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committees, bantay gubats (forest guards) and Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Officers.
It also pushed for the continued implementation of the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Plan and Community-Based Forest Protection Strategy, and asked for the support of the Department of the Interior and Local Government through the Local Government Units, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council through its Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices.
“Haribon is currently working with concerned government agencies and potential funders to assist local partners on livelihood in order to support site rehabilitation, the establishment of sufficient fire lines, and to implement other projects such as rainwater catchment areas. A multi-stakeholder approach and government-supported initiatives are crucial to prevent these incidents from recurring,” the organization said.
The DENR, through its Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape-Protected Area Management Board, investigated the case and identified three individuals as the source of the fires through slash-and-burn farming or “kaingin”. Haribon said three individuals will be made liable based on
Republic Act (RA) 9847, or the act establishing Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon as a protected area, created pursuant to RA 7586, also known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.
“The PAMB shall also release an agreement to be signed by the offenders, local government units, DENR and Haribon, requiring the identified offenders to helping replant the burned sites,” the group said.
“The Haribon Team expresses its appreciation for the continued support of donors for the Forests for Life Movement and our Adopt-a-Seedling campaign as we appeal for everyone’s understanding, in spite of these challenges, as we work together to bring back our forests,” Haribon added.