Stop logging; DENR execs firedBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“How come there’s still logging?”
An exasperated Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said on Saturday as he relieved 31 officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in eastern and southern Mindanao due to their alleged failure to curb illegal logging more than a year after President Aquino imposed a log ban nationwide.
On Friday, authorities seized some P16 million worth of “hot logs” purportedly shipped from Davao at Pier 16 to the Manila North Harbor.
“If they’re effective there, how could we have such shipment reaching Manila? This has been stopped in Luzon and Visayas, but not in Mindanao. We really have to take charge,” Paje said.
Aquino orders task force to Butuan
To show he meant business, the President had ordered the transfer of the office of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force to Butuan from Manila to crack down on illegal loggers, Paje said.
“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 an interview.
The DENR has seized more than 13 million board feet of logs since Mr. Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 in February 2011 banning logging nationwide. The bulk of these logs came from Mindanao, Paje said.
Most of those relieved were officials in Region XIII or Caraga Region, comprising Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and Region XI, composed of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.
Some of the provinces in these two regions are considered illegal logging “hot spots,” officials said.
In his speech during the DENR’s 25th anniversary last month, Mr. Aquino said illegal loggers had been making a mockery of EO 23, and directed the DENR, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Justice to step up the campaign against illegal logging.
He said nearly a thousand people in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City died at the height of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in December last year as a result of illegal logging.
Paje believed the DENR officials were in cahoots with the illegal loggers.
“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 is 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 units, police and the DENR.”
The relieved officials will be investigated for the 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.
EO 23 declares a moratorium on the cutting or harvesting of timber in natural and secondary forests nationwide. It also creates an anti-illegal logging task force, chaired by the environment secretary with the interior secretary, defense secretary, the Armed Forces chief, and the Philippine National Police chief as members.