By Mike Crismundo
BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur – Government authorities on Monday declared the peatlands fire near the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur under control.
Forest personnel sent to investigate the fire that covered 63 hectares near the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Bayugan-3 in Rosario reported that the fire had been extinguished, said Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Forster Jerome I. Albia in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur.
“Together with the Bantay Gubat team, we have seen that no ember was found in the area and the fire is totally out,” Albia told Manila Bulletin.
“Only traces of ashes and burned portion were found and there is no presence of smoke in the area now. Everything is under control,” he said.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Jose Flavio Concha also told Manila Bulletin on Monday that the peat fire that started last August 25 and the smoke that continued for several days was one of the issues discussed during a recent provincial management conference attended by four CENR officers and their planning officers.
He said an inquiry is in progress to determine the people responsible for setting the fire.
He clarified that the fire happened outside the perimeter of the Agusan Marshland.
“We cannot determine at the moment about the people responsible but we expect them to come out and help the government in the protection and preservation of the Agusan Marsh,” he added.
Forester Emily Tevez, Protected Area Superintendent overseeing the Agusan Marsh believes the fire may have started when local residents began to burn dry grass to clear an area “for fishing purposes.”
The speculation is still to be determined and under thorough investigation by the validating and investigating team created by But DENR Regional Executive Director Felix S. Alicer said it was too early to speculate.
Alicer said he has created a team to investigate the fire. The team failed to reach the site of the fire because the peat was too deep.
“Peatlands are basically 90 percent water and composed of semi-decomposed organic matter accumulated through the years on a waterlogged area,” he said.
“Peatlands are important in global warming because it helps sequester the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The materials beneath the peatland are combustible,” Albia said.
Alicer instructed the CENRO in Bunawan to coordinate with local officials in drawing up measures to prevent future fires in the peatlands.
He also directed the Agusan del Sur Protected Area Superintendent Unit (PASU) to lead a round-the-clock patrol of the marsh.