BAUKO, Mountain Province – More than fifty hectares of forested areas in the different parts of the municipality were ravaged by numerous forest fires in the municipality over the past several weeks greatly affecting the efforts of the local government to sustain the presence of trees that maintain the town’s good state of environment.
Mayor Braham B. Akilit expressed his disappointment in the failure of the anti-forest fire system that was put in place to prevent the occurrence of forest fires at least in the municipality, thus, the need for the environment department to formulate short, medium and long-term programs to guarantee the involvement of all stakeholders in efforts to preserve and protect the environment.
Further, the local chief executive also criticized the labor department for its sudden change of heart in the selection of the beneficiaries of its Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program supposedly instrumental in providing emergency employment for residents in the different barangays to help in preventing the occurrence of forest fires in their areas.
He explained the municipal government was earlier allowed to recommend the beneficiaries of the TUPAD Program to be assigned as members of the Bantay Gubat or forest guards but for reasons that still remain to be vague, the recommendations of the local government were eventually scrapped in favour of the endorsements of the provincial government, a rare occurrence in the said program.
“Our efforts to sustain and even improve our efforts to preserve and protect forest fires within the municipality was compromised by the non-hiring of those earlier recommended for emergency employment under the TUPAD Program of the labor department. We cannot understand why the sudden change of heart by the labor department on who will make the final recommendations on the individuals to be hired,” Mayor Akilit stressed.
Akilit is a staunch advocate for the preservation and protection of the environment having started the same during his incumbency as the regional director of the Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration and even as a private individual.
He claimed one of the major programs that he institutionalized when he became the town’s chief executive was the propagation of plants with broad leaves to serve as fire lanes to help prevent forest fires that will compromise the efforts of the local government and stakeholders to protect the environment.
Bauko hosts the bulk of the Mount Data watershed that serves as the headwaters of four major river systems, the Agno, Chico, Abra and Magat Rivers, providing abundant water supply for people living in the lowland communities.
He stipulated stakeholders must start to be vigilant in preventing forest fires in their barangays that will greatly affect the condition of their forests so that the town’s identity as headwaters of major river systems will be sustained.