DENR gears up for El Niño, forest fires

A FIRE LINE is a strip of open land in a forest or vegetation that serves as barrier or gap to prevent a fire from spreading. Photo shows the fire line in Cuyapiao, Patnongon, Antique prepared by members of the DENR-6 Response and Emergency Action Team. (DENR-6)

WHILE most of us enjoy the mild Holiday climate, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is up on its toes for the looming dry spell that the El Niño phenomenon will cause in the first three months of 2019.

In a press statement, the DENR-6 regional office said it is activating its Response and Emergency Action Team or REACT in the six provinces of Western Visayas.

“We have organized REACT teams in the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros to be vigilant in protecting the areas within and at the periphery of National Greening Program (NGP) plantations,” said DENR-6 regional executive director Jim O. Sampulna.

“We must sustain our NGP gains as our efforts in bringing back the forest cover in the region means winning the fight against climate change, and giving economic opportunities to our upland and coastal dwellers as well. We cannot allow grass or forest fires to gobble up what we have worked so hard to achieve,” he added.

Sampulna also said that he already forewarned all Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officers (ENRO) and Community ENROs to be vigilannt in protecting NGP sites from possible fire occurrences.

In its Climate Outlook for December 2018–May 2019, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) had predicted a high possibility of El Niño dry spell occurrences, with “way below normal rainfall” peaking in April 2019 for the most part of the country.

Four other international prediction centers – the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM); Japan’s Tokyo Climate Center/JMA; and South Korea’s APEC Climate Center – also issued the same El Niño forecast.

Since 2017 until November 2018, established plantations under the ENGP spanned 19,501 hectares across mountain, urban and mangrove areas in Western Visayas.

These established plantations are not only rich with biodiversity, but serves well as carbon sink areas that mitigate the impacts of climate change.

From a successful NGP implementation (2011-2016), the government extended the program to another 12 years. Thus, the Enhanced NGP or ENGP (2016-2028) is being carried out by virtue of Executive Order No. 193 throughout the country.

It is one of the ten priority programs of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu that is focused on reforesting another 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands nationwide.

“The ENGP and the Intensified Forest Protection and Anti-Illegal Logging priorities are twin programs that aim to improve the nation’s forest cover and ensure continued protection of all existing forests in the country,” Cimatu said.

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