Haribon statement on forest restoration site fire of 2019

September 5, 2019

Haribon Foundation’s statement on the grass fire incidents burning the 17 hectares of restoration sites in Rizal and Laguna provinces.

This statement reports and addresses the Forests for Life (FFL) Movement’s restoration sites that have been scorched by grass fires in the last week of April 2019. These affected project sites in Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) in Brgy. Bukal, Nagcarlan; Brgy. San Cristobal, San Pablo, Laguna; and in the YES City of the Rizal Provincial Government land, Brgy. San Andres, Tanay, Rizal. Unfortunately, these grass fires resulted in the mortality of more than 22,000 native trees covering a total of 17 hectares.

The open and denuded areas were reforested from 2015 to 2018 with the support of numerous partners and volunteers from the corporate sector, local and national government agencies, People’s Organizations (POs), and concerned individuals. These incidents pose an urgent challenge and opportunity to equip stakeholders with appropriate strategies to help prevent and combat forest and grass fires. 

To make this possible, Haribon needs the full support of the government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Protected Area Management Board (PAMB),  PA Superintendents, Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committees, Bantay Gubats, Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Officers (DENROs), the implementation of Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Plan (FPLEP), Community-Based Forest Protection Strategy; the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) through the Local Government Units (LGUs), Bureau of Fire Protection, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), through its Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices.

The DENR, through its Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape-Protected Area Management Board (MBSCPL-PAMB), investigated the case and was able to identify three (3) individual offenders implicated as the source of the fires through slash-and-burn farming or due to “kaingin”. They will be made liable based on Republic Act No. 9847,  an act establishing Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon as a protected area, created pursuant to Republic Act 7586, also known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act. The PAMB shall also release an agreement to be signed by the offenders, local government units, DENR and Haribon, requiring the identified offenders to helping replant the burned sites.

Haribon is currently working with concerned government agencies and potential funders to assist local partners on livelihood in order to support site rehabilitation, the establishment of sufficient fire lines, and to implement other projects such as rainwater catchment areas. A multi-stakeholder approach and government-supported initiatives are crucial to prevent these incidents from recurring.

The Haribon Team expresses its appreciation for the continued support of donors for the Forests for Life Movement and our Adopt-a-Seedling campaign as we  appeal for everyone’s understanding, in spite of these challenges, as we work together to bring back our forests.