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Freeman Region

2 fires level 50 hectares of forest

- Danny B. Dangcalan -

BACOLOD CITY ,Philippines  — About 50 hectares of endemic trees were destroyed when two successive fires, suspected to have been intentionally done, hit the reforested areas in Murcia, Negros Occidental Thursday.

Provincial Legal Officer Jose Ma. Valencia said the first fire began at about 6 a.m. on the 25- hectare reforestation site of the Negros Occidental provincial government in that town.

The fire was put out at 1 p.m., or about 13 hours later, but it already razed about 5 hectares of newly planted trees, he said.

And just as the first fire was being put out, another fire struck on the adjacent 50-hectare reforestation site of the Energy Development Corp., said Valencia.

The second fire was put out at 4:30 p.m. but it destroyed about 45 hectares of 3-year-old trees, he said.

The Murcia Police and Task Force Ilahas members were augmented by 25 soldiers of the Philippine Army and 60 police trainees of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office in putting out the fires, Valencia said.

Task Force Ilahas men from Barangay Patag of Silay City also came to help the firefighters. “Our people were exhausted because, after hours of putting out the first fire, another one broke out,” he said.

Valencia 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 have been rehabilitating a vital watershed,” he said.

The Murcia Police had informed Valencia that they arrested some people for illegal charcoal making last week, and they could be responsible for the fire, said Valencia. “We have some names but we will divulge them if we have concrete evidence,” he said.

Valencia further said millions of pesos had been spent on reforestation sites in Murcia, and the endemic trees planted are lawaan and apitong species. “We are hoping that 30 percent of the trees will survive the fires, he added.

BARANGAY PATAG OF SILAY CITY

ENERGY DEVELOPMENT CORP

FIRE

MURCIA

MURCIA POLICE

MURCIA POLICE AND TASK FORCE ILAHAS

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL POLICE PROVINCIAL OFFICE

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL THURSDAY

PHILIPPINE ARMY

VALENCIA

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