TUGUEGARAO CITY: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 2 has appealed to the public to protect the woodlands following the recent forest fire in Bugatay, Peñablanca, Cagayan.

In a media interview on Friday, Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan of DENR-Cagayan Valley said, according to the investigation report, there were no traces of kaingin or forest clearing found within the area.

“The fire was possibly due to a thrown cigarette butt in the area,” she claimed.

The investigation spearheaded by the PENR Sub-Office of Cagayan revealed that the incident took place within the National Greening Program forest plantation of Bugatay Upland Farmers Association (BUFA) in Peñablanca town.

Over 20,000 narra, tuai and tindalo indigenous species planted in 12 hectares and the 2.5 hectares adjacent grasslands were burned with a total damage of P300,000.

“I appeal to the public, especially to the local residents and barangay local government unit of Bugatay, to be responsible in throwing your cigarette butts, not just anywhere, especially when within forest areas and plantations. The government has invested funds to establish a forest plantation under the National Greening Program as measures against the effects of climate change such as strong winds,” she added.

A replanting activity will be jointly conducted by the DENR and members of the BUFA using the NGP maintenance and protection fund.

“Upon our immediate investigation, the fire incident, which alarmed us in the DENR, did not happen within the mountainous part of Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, contrary to what the netizen posted on Facebook,” Bambalan said as she clarified that no big trees were affected in the plantation.

She also emphasized the strict implementation of forest protection and law enforcement in the region through the operation of the Protected Area Management Board chaired by the DENR, enlisting the active involvement of the law enforcement agencies.