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Ilocos Norte establishes task force to mitigate forest fires

By Leilanie Adriano

Laoag City – Ilocos Norte has established an inter-agency task force to tackle the underlying factors contributing to the 26 forest fires reported thus far.

Comprising representatives from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Army (PA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the provincial government of Ilocos Norte, the group aims to address the escalating forest fire situation.

Fire Supt. Roxanne Annie Parado, provincial fire marshal, in an interview on Wednesday, said the task force will conduct foot patrols in the forest fire-prone areas while providing alternative source of livelihood to honey bee collectors, wildlife hunters and kaingeros (or those involved in slash and burn activities) who were earlier identified as those behind the occurrence of forest fire incidents.

“There had been an alarming number of forest fires in the first quarter of this year, which is now at 26 compared to 21 in 2023,” she said.

The forest fire-prone areas include the towns of Nueva Era, Piddig, Solsona, Vintar, Burgos, and Pasuquin.

Parado said grass fire incidents in the past five years, except for 2023, reached only one to two cases a year.

She said the task force has thus recommended the establishment of watch towers in strategic areas that will be manned by anyone from the team round the clock.

The local government of Piddig temporarily suspended the entry of campers in grassfire-prone areas such as Mount Lammin effective March 18 to help address the situation.

A helicopter bucket of the PAF is also on standby at the province to help put out grass fires in areas not accessible to fire trucks.

BFP data show that over PHP11.4 million worth of damage was recorded from the fire incidents in the first quarter of this year, lower than the PHP20.2 million in the same periodlast year.(PNA)

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