By NITZ ARANCON
CITY hall yesterday started making fire lines in six watersheds in the city that have started drying up as a result of rising temperatures, and in anticipation of the worst scenario: fire.
Edwin Dael, chief of the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro), said work started to put in place fire lines in the watershed areas of barangays Lumbia, Bayanga, Dansolihon, Tuburan, Tagpangi, and Tablon.
The work entails creating gaps in vegetation that would serve as barriers to prevent fires from spreading.
Dael said the Clenro could make more fire lines with more funds that could only be released if the city council declares a state of calamity.
He said the fire lines in six barangays were being made through the government’s “Work for Food” program.
Workers, mostly farmers in the outlying villages, were to be paid with rice instead of cash.
Mayor Oscar Moreno has ordered the purchase of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) that would be used in paying the workers, Dael said.
On Monday, the city council approved a proposal for the use of P4.5 million to be used as relief aid to farmers and their families in outlying villages in the city who are reportedly going hungry because their farms have been dried up.
Councilor Leon Gan said the P4.5-million budget approved by the city council is intended for relief assistance to families in 13 barangays.
Councilor Annie Daba, chair of the city council’s committee on agriculture, said the fund comes from the budget of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
The city council has yet to approve a proposal to declare a state of calamity in the city. Councilor Enrico Salcedo said this was due to the absence of a complete and detailed report on the extent of damage in 25 barangays that have been badly hit by the summer heat aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.
Mayor Moreno earlier sought the passage of the measure which he certified as “urgent” in order to allow city hall to use its five-percent calamity fund to help the drought-stricken villages.
“Mosugot ako nga i-approve ang Cagayan de Oro nga state of calamity basta kay masayod kami kon pila gayud ang kantidad nga gikinahanglan sa mga barangay nga apiktado sa ting-init kay dili mahimo nang lump sum appropriation sa five-percent calamity fund,” Salcedo said.
He said city hall’s agriculture officials have yet to submit a complete damage report to the city council.
City hall started working on the fire lines a day after rancher Eduardo Pelaez, a son of the late former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, sounded alarm bells because the scorching heat has already dried up at least 80 percent of the water reserves of the 1,900-hectare Mapawa Nature Park in Malasag, Cugman.
The Malasag area serves as a watershed for Cugman and Agusan.
Pelaez revealed this when he and Steag State Power Inc. communications officer Jerome Soldevilla led a group in inspecting creeks and waterfalls in the Mapawa park.
Some 1,200 of the 1,900 hectares have been developed by Steag, Pelaez Ranch Inc., and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the so-called “Mapawa Carbon Sink Project.”
Soldevilla said the fear now is that fire could aggravate the problem even as he stressed out the need to protect the watershed.
During the Holy Week, some 12 hectares of the Mapawa park were damaged by a fire.