Friday, April 27, 2012

PBSP eyes record field in Olango open water swim

PBSP eyes record field in Olango open water swim
By Mars Alison
Cebu Daily News
April 27, 2012

This year’s 5th Olango Challenge slated on May 19 at the Tambuli East in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City is expected to draw a record number of participants with organizers getting inquiries about the open-water swimming marathon as early as January.

The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in cooperation with the Philippine Aquatic Sports Association (PASA) said they are expecting 80 participants this year.

However, entries might swell especially that triathletes are expected to use the event to prepare for the upcoming 70.3 Ironman Philippines this August.

With this, organizers said they will be accepting a maximum of 150 entries, as the number is manageable in terms of logistics and venue.

What is considered as the Philippine’s premiere open-water swimming marathon is also a fund-raising project of the PBSP for the residents of Olango Island.

In yesterday’s press conference at the Casino Espanol, PBSP chairman Antonio Aboitiz said the funds that will be raised this year will be used to build a third two-classroom building in the Tungason Elementary School.

Last year, the event raised P1.6 million which was also used to build classrooms and livelihood projects for the residents of the island. The funds came mostly from the pledges made by the participants.

Making the first pledge this year is Aboitiz himself who is betting that he will finish the race faster than his time last year of one hour and 55 minutes.

The course this year will be the same as last year which resembles a box in front of the Tambuli resort and will stretch to as far as the Crimson Resort.

Aboitiz said that the area is ideal for the race because there are no ports and there are no other resorts in between Tambuli and Crimson so there will be no traffic during race time.

One circuit of the course is equivalent to two kilometers.

Categories to be contested will still be 6K and 2K competitive and 6K and 2K fun with close to P85,000 in prize money to be given away.

PASA’s Alexander Reyes said it is a must for participants to join the orientation to be held before the swim, otherwise they will not be allowed to compete.

A swimmer must also be at least 14 years old to be able to compete.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Forest rangers suspect arson in Buhisan fires

Forest rangers suspect arson in Buhisan fires
Cebu Daily News
April 23, 2012

Are arsonists responsible for the series of bush fires at the reforestation plantations in Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve?

Volunteer forest rangers suspect the fires that hit the Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve may be caused by arson.

Boy Clamares of Toong Volunteers Farmers Association made this assessment after putting out last Saturday, the third fire that hit the critical watershed this year.

Saturday’s bush fire  damaged 18 young narra trees planted in the 2010 reforestation project of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

Maria Luisa B. Largo, PBSP head of Metro Cebu Poverty Reduction Program is wondering why their plantations seem to be the “victim” of bush fires.
Toong barangay Captain Timmy Bacalso also asked the same question.

“Nganu man gyud kaha nga ang PBSP plantation man gyud ang masunog? Nagsusi pa sad mi ana nga panghitabo. Hinuon, ilawom sa teak man sad sila nananom, (Why does the PSBP plantations suffer from bush fires? We are currently investigating on the matter. Fire is inevitable though since they are planting underneath teak trees.) said Bacalso.

Bacalso though only learned of the third fire when Cebu Daily News called him about the fire.

“Wala ko kadungog nga duna diay sunog nga gamay gahapon.  Amo unya ng susihon, (I did not hear about the fire yesterday (Saturday). We will look into this matter.)” Bacalso told CDN.

PO3 Virgilio Bogatan who is assigned in the area was also clueless on the third fire.

Clamares said he has strong reasons that  the fires were caused by arsonists.

“Sunogon nila ang mga kahoy, aron ilang makuha unya himoong uling. Kay og sunog na daan, di naman sila dakpon, (They burn the trees, so that they can harvest it for charcoal because if it is already burned, they would not be apprehended by authorities anymore), Clamares said.

Skyrocketing prices of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) increased demand for charcoal as families stretching their budget shift to charcoal as cooking fuel.

According to Clamares, the three reported bush fires in barangay Toong have already damaged over 10,000 fruit and non-fruit trees and bushes.

The first one on April 13 damaged more than 7,000 young trees while the second on April 17 destroyed about 3,000.

Government authorities however have yet to determine if the fires were intentional as the area used to be the source of raw materials of charcoal makers.

High summer temperature may however also aggravate the risk for forest fires.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called for vigilance  against forest and bush fires especially during the summer season.

The Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve is part of the 28,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape.

It also hosts the Buhisan Dam which is the main source of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Soaring temperature, forest fire

Soaring temperature, forest fire
By Carmel Lois Matus, Jessa Chrisna Marie Agua, Tweeny Malinao
Cebu Daily News
April 22, 2012

Earth Day is celebrated today in Cebu city amid soaring summer temperatures, a bicycle tour and a second bush fire in the Buhisan watershed.

The weather bureau recorded 33.2 degrees Celsius yesterday, making it the hottest day of the summer, according to weather analyst Boy Artiaga of the Mactan office of Pagasa.

Artiaga said the heat is normal this time of the year but cautioned the public to stay in the shade and drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.

Those with high blood pressure should also stay indoors especially between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the day is at its hottest.

Artiaga said there was no sign of an El Niño phenomenon and that the heat would subside by May 15 when weather experts expect the onset of the rainy season.

Pedal power will be showcased by bicycle enthusiasts in the morning.

Traffic enforcers will be on the street at 7 a.m. to guide hundreds of bicycle riders who will travel a 20-kilometer Earth Day Route that starts and finishes in  Plaza Independencia.

Roads “are not closed” to traffic.  Bikers will pass the rightmost lane, said Rafael Yap, executive director of the City Traffic Operations and Management.

A Citom enforcer on motorbike will follow the bicycle teams as they travel through major intersections of JY Square, Gorordo Avenue, Juan Luna Avenue, M.J. Cuenco, Legaspi Extension,  Fuente Osmeña, P. del Rosario Avenue, Colon Street and Osmeña Boulevard.

Meanwhile, the two bush fires occurred only four days and a few kilometers apart in barangay Toong in the Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve, the first recorded since 2012.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, including reports that it could have been intentionally started by dwellers out to cut and harvest damaged trees to make into charcoal.

When Cebu Daily News visited the site,  there were dry patches of land littered with  fallen brown leaves of old teak trees mixed with newly planted fruit trees.

About two hectares of a reforestation site in the “greenbelt” buffer zone entering the protected area were burned in the second fire  on April 17  in barangay Toong, Cebu City.

About one hectare was in the project site of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) while the remaining one hectare is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Policemen and Toong barangay tanods put out the flames that started about  3 p.m., said DENR 7 Protected Area Superintendent (PASU) Ariel Rica.

Fruit trees like santol, nangka, caimito, kamansi (bread fruit), marang and lumbang were among the damaged trees, said PBSP forester Flor Rosales who showed Cebu Daily News the terrain.

Red flower-bearing fire trees, planted in the first-line boundary of the protected area , were also burned.

Also affected were shrubs like rattan, magay and romblon. These were planted for economic use of farmers, who would be trained on weaving and other livelihood options under a PBSP program, said Flores.

Damaged trees and shrubs were less than two years old.  Some were just planted five months ago.

Rosales said after making an inventory, volunteers and PBSP will have to prepare for rehabilitation of the area and replanting again when the rainy season starts.

Barangay Toong has a sloping, steep terrain.

The first fire in early April damaged the lower part.  The second fire ate up the upper slopes.

In a press statement about the Toong fires, DENR said the dried leaves during summer “should be collected and removed from the site as they are potential source of fire.”

It said three aspects have to be considered 1) prevention, (2) detection, and (3) suppression.

Experts have cited the danger of  bush or forest fires where there are dried teak trees especially with cigarette butts irresponsibly thrown in the area.

Teak trees are exotic species that were massively planted in past DENR reforestation projects but are no longer continued because they absorb a lot of water.

Since tall teak trees form a canopy with its broad leaves, shrubs can’t grow underneath, a factor that leads to soil erosion and eventual siltation of the Buhisan dam.

Rosales confirmed that PBSP and many NGOs don’t plant exotic trees and instead focus on planting  native tree species that improve biodiversity, as well as “revenue-bearing” trees and shrubs so that the community can have livelihood opportunities without resorting to cutting down the trees.

The Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve covers 630 hectares mostly in the uplands of Cebu City.

It is one of five protected watersheds in the 28,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).

The others are Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve, Sudlon National Park, Central Cebu National Park and the Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed Forest Reserve.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another bush fire hits tree plantation

Another bush fire hits tree plantation
Sun.Star Cebu
April 20, 2012

CEBU CITY -- A second bush fire broke out in as many weeks in the Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve (BWFR), where a fight to protect biodiversity is ongoing.

The fire does not threaten any homes, but it hampers the natural growth of indigenous trees within the watershed.

“Since the area is a plantation, there are no dwelling places that would be affected.

HOW TO STOP A BUSH FIRE.  Marili Ortiz, a former forester and a resident of Toong, gathers dry leaves to form a barrier that will keep a bush fire from spreading. (Alex Badayos)
“So the damage is to the humus that could be transformed into organic matter, which contributes to the natural process or cycle,” said Socorro Atega, Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water (CUSW) director.

The CUSW is a non-government organization involved in efforts to preserve the Buhisan Watershed, Metro Cebu’s main source of ground water. The watershed is part of the 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape.

Atega said that in Barangay Toong, Cebu City, which is located within the watershed and hosts a large teak plantation, the people have grown used to the fires.

“Tungod sa liter sa teak, if you refer to the DENR, heat and lit cigarettes thrown in the area of dried leaves could start a fire. So it (bush fires) have a human factor,” said Atega.

Marili Ortiz, of the Community Environment and Natural Office (Cenro) and a Barangay Toong resident, reported that a bush fire hit a one-hectare area of the teak plantation Thursday afternoon.

The 54-year-old Toong resident said she passed by the forest past 3 p.m. on her way home from work and saw the fire starting. An hour later, she returned to the site and saw three forest guards, accompanied by a policeman assigned in Barangay Toong, putting out the bush fire.

“Nagtuo ka’g dali ra patyon ang kayo pero lisod kayo (You might think the fire would be easy to put out, but it wasn’t),” Ortiz said.

In an interview, barangay captain Teotimo L. Bacalso said he attended a three-day seminar that just concluded Thursday afternoon, so he was unaware of the bush fire.

Bacalso said they are always prepared for any fires and have fire extinguishers ready.

He also said that the residents, who are used to the bush fires that occur every time the hot season comes, help put out the fires in any way they can.

Ortiz suggested that the best way is to put up a barrier of dried leaves to block the rapid spreading of flames. One can simply stomp on the flames or bring water and splash it on the affected area.

Flor Rosales, a technical officer of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), said these bush fires are harmful to the environment since it damages mostly the newly planted trees.

Rosales said they have yet to survey if the affected hectare is a part of the PBSP reforestation site.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blaze consumes trees in reforestation site, damages part of watershed

Blaze consumes trees in reforestation site, damages part of watershed
By Bernadette A. Parco
Sun.Star Cebu
April 18, 2012

ABOUT 3,000 trees were eaten by a bush fire at a reforestation project of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in the mountain barangay of Toong, Cebu City last Friday.

According to a PBSP field survey, the fire—which occurred at noon as residents reported—damaged a 4.8-hectare reforestation site. Of the affected area, three hectares were planted in 2008 while the rest were planted last year.

Since the fire, which was put out after two hours, damaged part of the Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is closely monitoring the area.

Buhisan watershed is part of the nearly 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).

“What happened in the area was an isolated case,” said Malu Largo, program coordinator of the PBSP-Visayas Regional Operations. She added that the dried leaves of the teak trees may have caught fire during the heat.

The trees eaten by the fire were part of the reforestation project of the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) and PBSP. Only about 991 trees were left unharmed.

PBSP’s programs are funded by its corporate members, like Veco.

Largo assured that PBSP reforestation sites have a high survival rate of more than 95 percent.

She said that since watershed management and reforestation are priority projects of the PBSP, the group will reforest the area.

But she said reforesting denuded mountains and degraded watersheds should be the concern of the government and the community.

But Ma. Alma Ferolyn, Barangay Toong treasurer, admitted that the residents were not really concerned about the bush fire as it happened some distance away from their houses.

She said residents are used to bush fires in summer. Besides, she added, the barangay does not have a disaster preparedness program.

CCPL superintendent Le-bert Omac said a DENR team inspected the 800 square meters inside Buhisan watershed, a source of water in Metro Cebu, that was damaged by fire.

The DENR is yet to determine if the fire was deliberate. But it said in a statement that “the intense heat with the presence of many large dried leaves of teak tree species may have contributed the fire.”(CNU Comm Intern Zarah Joi J. Ancajas)

Burned: 14 houses in Mandaue city, 4.8 hectares in Buhisan forest

Burned: 14 houses in Mandaue city, 4.8 hectares in Buhisan forest
By Jessa Chrisna Marie Agua, Norman V. Mendoza
Cebu Daily News
April 18, 2012

A mid-afternoon fire destroyed 14 houses in an interior neighborhood of barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City yesterday.

No one was injured.

Minutes after the fire in sitio Basubas was tapped at 3:33 p.m., a grass fire sent firefighters rushing to a field a kilometer away at the Mandaue City Sports and Cultural Complex.

Urban and upland fires have been reported in soaring temperatures of summer.

In the Buhisan watershed of Cebu City, a bush fire was declared under control after damaging 4. 8 hectares, according to the Philippine Business for Social Progress  which maintains a reforestation site.

The fire was reported by a PBSP forester who was passing by the area last Friday.  The forester raised the possibility that illegal tree cutters had started the fire to justify cutting down dead trees for firewood and charcoal.

Damaged seedlings of native trees have to be replanted and a two-meter wide “fireline” to be set up by clearing boundaries of debris, said the PBSP in a report.

The fire was put under control “after two hours” said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which said it did not know if the fire was  accidental or the work of an arsonist.

“Grassland/ bush fires in the Buhisan Watershed are a frequent occurrence especially in summer time,” said the report of DENR Protected Area Superintendent Ariel Rica.

He said they used “fire swatters like wood and banana stalks” to put out the flames.   The DENR gave a smaller damage estimate of .8 hectares of the undershrubs of an old Teak tree plantation.

The Buhisan watershed is co-managed by the Metro Cebu Water District and DENR.

While the bush fire “won’t affect water supply”, Roel Paneblo, manager of the MCWD environment division, said the area must be “vegetated or reforested immediately” because the siltation level of the Buhisan Dam would increase with the soil erosion.

The PBSP report, using satellite-based Global Positioning System images, pinpointed the area to 4.8 hectares.

“Of these, 3 hectares were planted in 2008.  The 1.8 hectare reforestation site was planted in 2011.”

More than 3,000 forest trees and shrubs were damaged in the “bush fire” but  991 survived ,including native species of narra, malapaya, lumbang and  salingkuwan.

In the Mandaue fire, small alleys in sitio Basubas allowed only  a one-way access for small vehicles.

“We just connected hoses until it reached the area,” said SFO1 Nilo Cosido, Mandaue fire investigator said.

The fire started in the house of Rosemarie Miñoza and spread to other houses of light materials, concrete and wood.

The lone patient of the “Paanakan sa Mandaue”  a three-bed  maternity house nearby was discharged in the morning so no one was around when the fire broke out.

A firewall prevented flames from reaching them, but part of an extension building was affected,  said the owner Liza Basubas Prudenciado.

A 14-year-old girl was asleep when the fire broke. She was frantically trying to get back into their burning  house when a neighbor John Arnel Toñacao grabbed her and took her to safety.

The girl’s mother recalled a fire in the sitio in 2001, and said bystanders who use shabu in the neighborhood may have accidentally caused the fire.

Marvin Sevillino, a resident, was at Carbon market. He wasn’t able to save any of his house appliances while his wife was away in San Fernando town, south Cebu.

Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes rushed to the scene and ordered social workers to assist fire victims and provide emergency meals. A rapid census will be made.

“They will receive assistance from the city for sure but we are still assessing them first,” said the mayor.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fire torches native trees in Buhisan watershed

Fire torches native trees in Buhisan watershed
Cebu Daily News
April 15, 2012

A fire broke out and spread through 12 hectares of the Buhisan Dam watershed a in barangay Toong, Cebu City, while forest guards and residents were attending  a nearby seminar last Friday noon.

Chairman Boy Clamares of the Toong Volunteer Farmers Association said three out of the affected 12 hectares of trees were sponsored by two companies and managed by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

The cause of the fire was unknown but Calmares said he suspected it was started intentionally  by illegal woodcutters  eyeing the  dead trees for making charcoal.

Though most of the trees are still standing, their leaves were torched. A  100-year-old teak tree and several 1-year-old seedlings  were  lost in the blaze.

PBSP forester Flor Rosales said she saw the fire when she passed by the area at 3:45 p.m. and was disappointed to see  that  no one was  putting  it out.

“I got off the motorcycle and went directly to the nearby Nature Center where forest guards and people were having a meeting. They ran to extinguish the fire,” she said.

The fire was also spotted by 28-year-old Buhisan resident Menti Cabingatan, who said she was about to gather firewood at the time.

“Like me, the children were supposed to get firewood, but they ran away when they saw the fire,” she said.

Rosales and Clamares said native trees like teak, narra and molave and some shrubs were  ruined  by the fire.

Suspecting arson, he said illegal  wood gatherers “burn trees since it is no longer prohibited to cut them once the leaves and branches are dead. That’s why they burn it. Why else would they do it? It is because authorities would  arrest them if they cut trees,” he said.

A forest fire is not a rare occurrence in their barangay and it is  especially frequent in the summer, Clamares said.

The biggest recorded bush fire  was in 2010 where a total of 320 hectares was affected.

“The summer heat may also be a cause but it’s possible that the fire was caused by illegal loggers, to avoid being penalized,” Clamares said.

He said the fire wouldn’t have occurred if there were forest watchers assigned to patrol the areas.

The burned plantation is part of the Buhisan Dam watershed reserve, where a ecotourism park is being developed by the PBSP with private donors and the community.

The Buhisan Dam watershed is  a 631-hectare protected area in the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) also called the Cebu Hillylands, which is Metro Cebu’s primary source of water.

The 100-year-old Buhisan Dam  itself provides about 5 percent of the  water supply of the Metro Cebu Water District.

The  Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) said it will send a team on Monday to assess the fire damage.

Barangay councilor Melvin Bacalso agreed that forest watchers should be assigned in the area. Correspondents Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua, Caryl Baylon and Careen L. Malahay.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

BE Resorts joins reforestation caravan

BE Resorts joins reforestation caravan
Cebu Daily News
April 14, 2012

BE RESORTS Mactan in cooperation with Philippine Business for Social Progress joins Cebu Hillylands Reforestation caravan inbarangay Tabuna, Cebu City.

At least 1,690 seedlings of tiga, marupunyot, malasuna and lawaan were planted last Aug. 20, 2011, by BE Resorts Mactan Associates joined by employees of other companies such as Lexmark Philippines, SGV and Co., Recon Radio, Qualfon Philippines, with the support of the Philippine Navy.

As a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, BE Resorts supports Hillyland Reforestation Caravan 2011, an environmental advocacy that empowers the community by educating them in agroforestry and engaging the business sector to volunteer.

The project stemmed from the Cebu Development Program of 1991, which covers 27,000 hectares of Central Cebu protected landscape that supplies water for Cebu City, namely: Buhisan Watershed and Sudlon National Park, Central Cebu National Park, Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed and Forest Park, Mananga Watershed and Forest Park.