Environment officials face graft charges for releasing illegal logs in 2003By Ador Vincent Mayol
Cebu Daily News
For releasing forest products from Mindanao that were misdeclared as corn grains and flour in 2003, two officials of the environment department are facing graft charges.
Facing criminal charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) are Richard Abella, the acting head of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Cebu City and Forester Nolito Lapinig.
Bail was recommended at P30,000 for their temporary liberty.
Lapinig was accused of releasing lumber valued at P599,222.80 on Jan. 6, 2003, despite its misdeclaration as flour.
He issued a Clearance to Transport Forest Products to shipper Anisah Radia Enterprises and consignee DTS Lumber and Construction Supply.
The Ombudsman charged Abella for allegedly releasing 15,000 linear meters of rattan poles valued at P265,000, which were misdeclared as corn grains on Feb. 17, 2003.
The forest products came from the Maguing Rebel Returnee Rugnan Valley in Lanao del Sur in Central Mindanao and consigned to Insular Rattan and Native Products.
They were released “despite knowledge that the products were misdeclared in the pertinent Bill of Lading as corn grains.”
The Ombudsman found that even if the shipments were already classified as Illegal Forest Products and subject to confiscation or forfeiture , the two officials still released them.
The violations according to the Ombudsman caused the government losses and gave “unwarranted benefits” to the shipper and the consignee.
“It is the undeniable fact that the shipments of rattan poles and lumber constitute illegal forest products,” the anti-graft office said.
The Ombudsman said the two accused failed to “faithfully execute the laws and rules, which intend to protect the environment.”
Cebu City and the rest of the Central Visayas is a major trans-shipment hub of illegally harvested forest products from Mindanao.
The environment department in the Central Visayas has recently cancelled the permit to operate of than 130 timber processing plants and lumberyards in the region.
It has also strengthened the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force to stop the trafficking of illegal forest products from Mindano.