Solon facilitates meeting to address Arayat forest fires

Local News Official
Local News OfficialSunStar File Photo

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Pampanga Third District Representative Aurelio “Dong” D. Gonzales, Jr. on Thursday met with local officials, residents and representatives of different government agencies to look into possible measures to prevent forest fires at the Mount Arayat Protected Landscape (MAPL).

Forest fires previously razed a portion of the protected landscape last February, April, and May of this year.

The fires, that occurred in the vicinity of the towns of Arayat and Magalang, destroyed an estimated 132 hectares of land.

During the meeting, the regional offices discussed their actions to prevent similar incidents.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Office III reported that the fire was caused by the burning of unwanted weeds for vegetable planting within the area.

As per their incident report, some 102.13 hectares of the National Greening Program identified sites within the protected area in Arayat were razed while 30.50 hectares were damaged in the Magalang side.

DENR officials said they have immediately coordinated with the provincial Bureau of Fire Protection, Forest Extension Officers and other agencies in leading the fire suppression team.

The agency said it likewise conducted a Forest Fire Prevention and Mitigation Response Management Training with representatives from the 11 barangays and residents within the Mount Arayat protected lands.

The body was informed that some occupants outside of the MAPL were recipients of the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards by the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Gonzales suggested that the DENR should coordinate with the Local Government Units of Arayat and Magalang to educate and inform the beneficiaries on the responsible use of land.

This move is expected to prevent the recurrence of forest fires and allow the settlers to comply with the existing laws on environmental protection, the lawmaker said.

Gonzales said he recommended that the DENR should coordinate with the two LGUs to resolve the issue of illegal occupation within the protected area.

The solon added that he called the attention of the agency to delineate the issue relative to the boundaries of the two municipalities.

Gonzales said he has observed that the boundary issue has been a factor in the protection and security of the Mount Arayat Protected Area.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fire Protection Pampanga Provincial Office said it identified safety measures to prevent forest fires.

The BFP provincial office suggested educating inhabitants on the peril of negligent human activities.

Fire officers in the province likewise pushed for the procurement of Water Misting Machines which are proven to be effective in putting out fires in the urban and rural areas.

They also recommended the establishment of a Forest Firefighting team composed of forest rangers in each barangay.

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