Aquino vows to hit illegal loggers defying tree-cutting banBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III acknowledged on Tuesday that illegal loggers have been defying an order he gave to stop commercial logging nationwide, saying he took that as a direct challenge to him.
Aquino, speaking at rites marking the 25th anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said illegal loggers have been making a mockery of his Executive Order No. 23, which has banned logging, and he has not been taking it lightly.
“It has reached my attention that there are still those who apparently don’t believe that we are serious in imposing the ban,” Aquino said during the rites in Malacañang. “People who have cohorts among members of the government continue logging activities,” he said.
“We are directly being challenged and I accept the dare,” said the President.
He said the importance of banning logging could not be overemphasized, citing the deaths of nearly a thousand people in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City at the height of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in December 2010 as an example of logging’s effects.
The President ordered three departments — interior and local government, justice and environment — to coordinate and devise ways to step up the anti-illegal logging campaign.
EO 23, issued in February 2011, also created an anti-illegal logging task force.
It also created the National Greening Program, an aggressive reforestation program that the President said has been aiming to double in just six years the 750,000 hectares reforested by the DENR in all its 25 years of existence.
Aquino ordered the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation to step up the manhunt for those behind the killings of environment and forest officers, who died while trying to protect the country’s forests from poachers.
Aquino also instructed Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to release P5 million from the President’s Social Fund for the Environmental Heroes’ Foundation. The foundation was put up for the benefit of families of martyrs for the environment.
The President, in his speech, vowed to accomplish a reforestation target that took DENR 25 years to achieve. He said he wanted to reforest more forest land in his six-year tenure than the 750,000 hectares reforested by DENR in 25 years.
Aquino said if his administration worked on reforestation in the same pace as his predecessor did, it would take 280 years for 8 million hectares of forests destroyed by decades of logging to be brought back to life.
“In response, we launched the National Greening Program (NGP), the most expansive reforestation program in our country’s history,” Aquino said in his speech.
“If the DENR planted trees in 750,000 hectares in the past 25 years, under the NGP, we would double this reforested area in just six years,” he added.
Aquino said that under the NGP, more than 89.6 million seedlings had been planted in almost 128,600 hectares of land before the end of 2011.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the reforestation program’s budget was increased by only 14 percent between 2010 and 2011 but the total area reforested increased by 154 percent, from just more than 32,000 hectares in 2010 to more than 82,000 hectares in 2011.
Tags: Benigno Aquino III , commercial logging ban , Crime , Department of Environment and Natural Resources , executive orders , Illegal Logging , laws and regulations , News , Philippine Government , Presidency