Fires believed to have been started intentionally in reforestation areas of the Negros Occidental provincial government and the Energy Development Corp. in Minoyan, Murcia, destroyed 50 hectares of endemic trees yesterday, Jose Ma. Valencia, chief of staff of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said.
Marañon Jr. said people who want to squat in the reforestation areas are suspected to be behind the burning. “We will arrest those responsible and arson charges will be filed against them,” he said.
The Murcia police and Task Force Ilahas men were augmented by the Army and police in putting out the blaze, Valencia said.
He said the first fire began at about 6 a.m. on the 25 has. reforestation site of the province that was put out at 11 a.m. after destroying about 5 hectares of newly planted trees.
Just as the blaze on the provincial government reforestation site was being put out, another fire began on the 50 hectare reforestation site of the EDC, destroying 45 has. of about 3-year-old trees, and was put out at about 4:30 p.m., Valencia added.
“Our people are exhausted because, after hours of putting out the first fire, another one broke out,” Valencia said.
The Army sent 25 soldiers and the Philippine National Police sent 60 police trainees to help put out the blaze, he said. Task Force Ilahas men from Barangay Patag, Silay City, also augmented the firefighters in Minoyan, he said.
“We will conduct a very thorough investigation and file arson charges, we already have some suspects,” Valencia said.
“We cannot just allow these people to destroy our forests, we are rehabilitating a vital watershed,” he said.
The Murcia police informed him that they arrested some people for illegal charcoal making last week who could be responsible for the fire, he added
“We have some names but we will divulge them if we have concrete evidence,” he added.
The endemic trees planted at the reforestation sites are lawaan and apitong, Valencia said.
He also said millions of pesos had been spent on reforestation sites in Murcia.
This is getting serious after we stop a fire, they start again in another location, he said.
“We are hoping that 30 percent of the trees will survive the fires, Valencia added.*CPG