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Maguey Greenbelt shows potential in forest fire protection in Benguet

In its third year, the Maguey greenbelt established under the project, “S&T Action Frontline for Emergencies and Hazards (SAFE) for Forest Fire in the Watershed in Bokod and Tublay, Benguet Province using Maguey as Greenbelt,” showed potential in combating forest fire. The project is led by For. Rhandy S. Tubal of the Watershed and Water Resources Research, Development, and Extension Center (WWRRDEC), Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB).

Sample burnt tree at the Seed Production Areas (SPAs) (left) and Maguey Greenbelt in Bokod (right) (Image credit: Saimon B. Hernandez, DOST-PCAARRD)

Funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST- PCAARRD) in 2021, the project used Maguey (Agave cantala) as greenbelts to protect the Benguet Pine Seed Production Areas (SPAs) that supports the National Greening Program (NGP) of the DENR against forest fire at Bokod, Benguet and the communal forest at Tublay, Benguet.

Recovering Maguey seedlings at the Seed Production Areas (SPAs) in Bokod showing the burnt trees surrounding them (Image Credit: Saimon B. Hernandez, DOST-PCAARRD)

The forest fire emergency measures established at Bokod, Benguet was tested earlier than expected this 2023. On February 14, 2023, a forest fire occurred at the project site in Bokod, Benguet, a tri-boundary consisting of Barangays Poblacion, Pito, and Bobok-bisal. The incident damaged the 85-meter strip of planted Maguey seedlings, destroyed juvenile Benguet pine trees, and damaged the basal area of matured Benguet pines. The Technology Transfer and Promotion Division (TTPD) of DOST-PCAARRD headed by Dr. Engelbert R. Lalican, the SAFE Maguey Project Team, and Benguet Environment and Natural Resources Office (BENRO) representative Tyson Estangki, conducted a monitoring and evaluation activity at the project sites. It was observed that 100% of the scorched Maguey seedlings have already recovered seven months after the incident.

Courtesy Call with barangay representatives from Tublay, Benguet with the Project team (Image Credit: Saimon B. Hernandez, DOST-PCAARRD

Support was gained from different agencies, such as the Bureau of Fire Protection-Benguet, Philippine National Police-Benguet, BENRO, Municipal and Barangay local government units (LGUs) of Bokod and Tublay, through participation in different management activities like strip brushing, staking, and hole digging. The MOAs related to sustainability of the project were finalized with the LGU of Tublay and BLGU of Bobok-Bisal, Bokod Benguet. Barangay ordinances for the protection and adoption of greenbelt establishment were also passed by Barangay Daclan, Tublay, and Bobok-Bisal, Bokod, Benguet.

To date, the establishment of Maguey greenbelt at Bokod and Tublay, Benguet is already completed. The project team also conducted trainings on Maguey production, Maguey greenbelt establishment, forest fire prevention and control, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and gender and development.  In partnership with the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority – Regional Office 1 (PhilFIDA-R1), a two-day training on Maguey fiber and handicraft production is scheduled before the year ends. The agency has also committed to providing technical assistance and use of machinery for this training.