Green mountains turned brown. Trees, young and old, torched black, even thegrasses. It is indeed summer when, for whatever reason, the itch to light a fire to dry grass attacks some peoples. It is so sad when we see smoke rising from the mountains. In the Cordillera, indigenous woodlot management systems are very common, like the batangan system among the Kankanaey, muyong among the Ifugao, tayan among the Bontok, and others, which ensures the care of mountains, including fire management. Government invested heavily in the reforestation of our denuded mountains and it is a waste of our money that the trees are burned before they are even mature. Worse, their fundamental role of holding water and soil is cut short. The frequent occurrence of forest fires in various parts of the Cordillera has resulted to the creation of a task force against forest fires initiated by the Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) to formulate strategies to curb forest fires. It is disgusting for Cordillerans who have preserved and protected the state of the environment in their places to have the forests simply burned by unscrupulous individuals for selfish reasons, some of which may be due to sick minds who find pleasure in seeing the mountain burn. One observation nowadays is the lack of community response to stopping forest fires. Before the advent of the establishment of fire departments in municipalities, the communities had an automatic response mechanism when fire is detected somewhere in the mountains. Villagers would form teams to use all means to put off the fire as soon as possible. Now, we hear comments like, “Let the fire department respond to that. They are paid to do that and this is the time they do their job.” There needs to be a revival of communitarian spirit in fire mitigation and response. We are all at the losing end if we abandon our collective responsibility for fire management.
The decent state of the region’s environment greatly contributes to the abundant water supply flowing in our major river systems and providing water to the communities for domestic, irrigation, industrial, power generation, among other uses, that sustain livelihoods, and well-being of people served by these waterways.
Without the trees that thrive in our mountains, there should have been massive soil erosions and landslides posing a serious threat to life and limb. But worse, water supply for all purposes will be heavily limited. This is why government banked on the implementation of the National Greening Program and the enhanced greening program to try to bring back the greenery of our denuded mountain ranges. The programs sought to plant over 1.5 billion assorted tree seedlings in over 1.5 million hectares of critical mountains to rehabilitate these areas, however the illegal activities of unscrupulous individuals have resulted to the eventual destruction of the identified plantation
sites because of the frequent occurrence of forest fires, either deliberately done or incidental.
Among the identified causes of forest fires over the past several years include the unattended open fires by unscrupulous cultivators in some portions of watersheds, lighted cigarette buts thrown in dried grassy portions of the mountain ranges, and other irresponsible acts. It is often the people living in communities affected by forest
fires that often respond to the situation but when the situation goes out of control, fire suppression is often required from more people and fire fighters.
We are saddened that the mature trees and the newly planted ones have been ravaged by forest fires setting back efforts to regreen denuded mountain slopes. Irresponsible behaviour in the use of fire in open spaces in our mountains, especially during the dry season, can compromise the state of our forest reservations.
Based on the report of the environment and natural resources department, hundreds of hectares of forests and tree plantation sites have been heavily ravaged by forest fires since the start of the year, a cause of alarm not only for environmentalists, but also ordinary citizens. Let us not allow our mountains to further be blacked. Let us, instead, cooperate with each other, with our local authorities and fire departments, to stop forest fires. Let us nurture the young trees in our midst. Let us protect our forests from damage so that the present and future generations can enjoy the fruits of a well-maintained environment so we can pass on the discipline down the generations.