More heads to roll on ARMM logging
COTABATO CITY—The highest ranking officer in charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Tuesday said he expects more heads to roll as efforts continue to identify and punish officials responsible for unabated forest destruction in one of the country’s most impoverished but resource-rich regions.
Mujiv Hataman, acting governor of ARMM, had fired the head of the environment and natural resources office of Lanao del Sur for failure to explain why logging persists in the province despite a ban that Hataman reissued on the day of his assumption into office and upon the directive of President Aquino.
He said more officials would be axed.
According to Hataman, Malik Pangandaman, who was sacked as Lanao del Sur chief environment and natural resources officer, could not deny continued logging in the province because it has become common knowledge that tree-cutting persists even near Lake Lanao, a major watershed area.
Logging has been partly blamed for the deadliest disaster that struck the country in recent years and killed hundreds of people in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. The death toll is expected to reach 2,000.
Massive flooding washed ashore in Iligan hundreds of logs that now dot the city’s beaches. Survivors of the disaster also recounted how logs floating in the floodwater eventually crushed scores of people.
Hataman said aside from dismissing erring officials, his administration would also press charges against them.
“We have to file appropriate charges because, otherwise, I would be liable under the (ARMM) Administrative Code if I tolerated this thing,” Hataman told the Inquirer.
Logging, he said, had repeatedly been banned in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu, but the cutting of trees continued.
Outgoing ARMM Environment Secretary Usman Sarangani said carabao logging did exist in Lanao del Sur. He said he did not know of any large-scale logging operations in the province.
But Hataman said his initial information was that three big logging companies were operating in Kapai, Lanao del Sur.
He said he hoped to gather more facts on the three big companies and unabated illegal logging in Lanao del Sur from the Army-led Task Force Ranao (TFR), which was initially formed to combat all forms of crime, particularly kidnapping, in the two Lanao provinces.
Hataman said information from local government officials would also be crucial in the fight to stop logging completely in the devastated areas.
“The meeting with TFR can hopefully determine which way we could effectively act on the problem created by persistent logging operation in the area with regards to the marching order of the President for a total log ban in the region,” he said. Nash B. Maulana and Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.