31 DENR officials in Mindanao sacked over illegal loggingBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on Saturday relieved 31 regional and provincial officials for failing to curb illegal logging in eastern and southern Mindanao more than a year after President Benigno Aquino imposed ban on logging.
“We’ve given them time to stop logging in their areas. Yet we continue to confiscate logs. They better answer for it. How come there’s still logging?’’ Paje said in a telephone interview.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has seized more than 13 million board feet of logs despite Aquino’s issuance of Executive Order No. 23 in February 2011 banning logging nationwide, he said.
The bulk of these logs came from Mindanao. And to stress his seriousness, the President recently transferred the office of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force to Butuan from Manila to crack down on illegal loggers, Paje said.
“I have deputized the military, police, the Coast Guard and the Marina to join the campaign, yet some loggers manage to get away. To me this no longer acceptable,” he said. “What’s emerging is that there’s connivance on the ground. This will not happen if it’s not tolerated by the local government unit, police and the DENR.”
At DENR’s anniversary, Aquino said illegal loggers were making a mockery of the EO 23, and directed the DENR, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Justice to draw up measures to step up the campaign against the loggers.
Most of those relieved were officials in Region 13 or the Caraga Region, consisting of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and Region 11, composed of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.
Topping the list were Region 13 executive director Leonardo Sibbaluca; Region 11 executive director Jim Sampulna; Musa Saruan and Hardinado Patnugot, technical directors for forestry in Region 13 and 11, respectively; Belo Udarbe, Emelyn Garong, Domino Cabrera Jr., Marcia Isip, Gregorio Lagura, and Julius Valdez, provincial environment and natural resources officers for Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, respectively.
Also relieved were community environment and natural resources officers in Butuan City, Tubay/Cabadbaran, Bayugan, Bunawan, Loreto, San Francisco, Talacogon, Cantilan, Bislig, Lianga, and Tandag towns, as well as in Davao City, Baganga, Lupon, Mati, Manay, Maco, Monkayo and Nabunturan towns.
The relieved officials will be investigated for eventual filing of administrative and criminal charges against them, according to Paje.
“Following the procedure, they will be investigated and later on charged, administratively or criminally,” he said.