They drove 400 km to impress Pres. AquinoBy Melvin Gascon
Inquirer Northern Luzon
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya— The things they do to impress the boss.
A convoy of 36 vehicles earlier confiscated from various parts of Cagayan Valley has traveled more than 400 kilometers in an effort to prove to President Benigno Aquino III that his officials are doing something to fight illegal logging in the region, where healthy forest patches still thrive.
On Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Cagayan Valley authorized the trip to the agency’s main office in Quezon City so the vehicles and their load of timber could be presented to the President next week.
DENR regional director Benjamin Tumaliuan had earlier issued a memorandum directing the transport to Quezon City of 47 confiscated trucks, vans and jeepneys in the inventory, along with their load, on orders of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
The vehicles and their load, which made up the seizures made by the DENR from January 2010 to June 2011, are to be presented by Paje to Mr. Aquino, supposedly to highlight the agency’s accomplishments, Tumaliuan said.
Asked how much the DENR had allocated for the transport of the seized vehicles and lumber, Wilfredo Malvar, DENR regional technical director for forestry, did not give a specific figure.
But he said the amount spent by the government for the trip was “minimal.”
Of the 47 seized vehicles, 44 are from the DENR offices in Cagayan and Isabela (22 each), two from Quirino, and one from Nueva Vizcaya, according to records.
But only 36 of the 47 vehicles left for the two-day trip on Thursday afternoon. Malvar said the others broke down and were considered unfit to make the journey.
While on the road yesterday, two more bogged down in Nueva Ecija, further reducing the fleet to 34 vehicles, he said.
For those who need it
Malvar said the confiscated vehicles and timber, which local courts had declared forfeited in favor of the government, would be donated to various agencies for use in their projects.
“Priority will be given to agencies in Cagayan Valley that have the foremost need for wood and vehicles,” he said.
Tumaliuan said the vehicles carried a total load of 198 cubic meters of timber illegally cut from the forests of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.
He said 257 cubic meters of lumber (109,000 board feet) had earlier been donated to the Department of Education for the repair of school buildings damaged by recent typhoons.
But as the convoy was making its way to Quezon City, an undetermined volume of timber had to be unloaded at a DENR outpost in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, on Thursday night.
Tumaliuan said DENR officials had realized that the load carried by some of the vehicles might be too heavy, making the ascent to Dalton Pass at the Nueva Vizcaya-Nueva Ecija border difficult.