The mountains of Benguet, a landlocked province in the Philippines, have been burning for the past few weeks.
A total of 106,547 pine trees and saplings have been destroyed in a forest fire encompassing at least 900 hectares, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cordillera.
Some 199 hectares of the National Greening Program (NGP) area of the Environmental department were also affected.
The NGP was created to help increase the water reservation for the three dams in northern Luzon which is Binga, Ambuklao and San Roque.
The provincial environmental office said the fire will have an adverse effect on water supply.
Water levels in creeks and rivers are already starting to deplete, according to provincial environmental officer Edgardo Flor.
“Medyo limited na ‘yung (tubig). Yung community rin sinasabi nila kumaunti yung (tubig) sa creeks and sa rivers,” Flor said.
Flor added that the fire ignited from kaingin or slash-and-burn farming.
“One reason is yung kaingin, nag-uumpisa na kasi sila to clear yung ilang area para sa preparatory sa planting time sa March at April,” Flor said.
Grasses were also burned for cattle-raising. “Sinusunog nila ung damo para pagdating ng tag-ulan tutubo ulit ‘yung damo at ‘yun ang gustong kainin ng mga baka,” Flor explained.
However, authorities were not able to file complaints against culprits. They lack witnesses and residents refuse to help with the investigation.
“Minsan pag magfa-file kami ng kaso bihirang manalo sa korte kasi kailangan nakita mo mismo at isa pa walang witness. Alam minsan ng community pero ayaw nilang ituro. Siguro kung may witness pwede makapagkaso,“ Walter Pedro, an environmental management specialist, said.