As El Nino continues to gain traction on the waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) predicts that temperatures can soar higher on the coming months.

Dry conditions can open possibilities of forest and grass fires occurring in localities that are experiencing dry spells and droughts. Thus, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 6, together with the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and other government agencies concerned are monitoring the situations especially in protected landscapes around the region.

Western Visayas is home to protected forests such as the Sibalom Natural Park in Antique, Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park straddling between the provinces of Antique and Aklan, Jalaur River Watershed Forest Reserve and Bulabog Putian National Park in Iloilo, Panay River Watershed Forest Reserve in Capiz and Northern Negros Natural Park in Negros Occidental, to name a few. These areas are vital sources of water that can become increasingly scarce should El Nino continues to intensify.

DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran reminds the public to be vigilant and avoid practices that might stoke fires within their communities. “Aside from wildfires occurring naturally due to extreme heat, human practices like kaingin, throwing away cigarette butts on dry vegetation, and irresponsible burning of wastes can ignite unintentional fires and cause damage to the environment. Let us be mindful of our seemingly simple actions,” RED Duran said.

Due care and attention must be given, and efforts must be strengthened to protect our landscapes and mitigate the risks brought about by the ongoing El Nino.