DENR creates 2 teams vs illegal loggers in MindanaoBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–Saying it’s not enough that illegal log shipments are being apprehended, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has created two teams to go after illegal loggers in Mindanao and look into the possible participation of his own personnel into the matter.
Paje said he wants the fact finding teams to investigate the liability of environment officers, either through negligence or collusion with illegal loggers, in the unauthorized felling of trees in Southern Mindanao and the Caraga region.
“There is a need to pinpoint who should really be made answerable and accountable for all this blatant disregard of our environmental laws, which would impact not only on us but also the generations of Filipinos that will come after us,” Paje said in a statement.
He noted that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had seized big volumes of undocumented logs and other forest products from Mindanao. Among them were 55 vans of lumber seized at the North Harbor in Manila last month. The cargo was loaded in the MV Lorcon Dumaguete, which came from Davao City.
Though the items have been confiscated, he said this was not something to completely rejoice about because the confiscations were “actually, by themselves, a negation of the real intent behind the issuance of Executive Order No. 23 which is to prevent the trees inside the natural forests from being cut.”
The President issued EO 23 in February last year declaring a moratorium on the cutting of timber in natural and residual forests in the country. The order also prohibited the DENR from issuing tree cutting permits.
Paje added that the bulk of the confiscations have been traced to Mindanao, particularly Davao Region and Caraga. “This is unacceptable in the light of EO 23 which has been in effect for over a year now,” he said.
Earlier, Paje ordered the relief of 31 officials and employees, including two regional executive directors, for their alleged failure to curb illegal logging in Southern Mindanao and the Caraga region.
As of end-June, 33 DENR personnel have been dismissed, suspended, fined or reprimanded, while another 34 have been formally charged. 180 personnel were also directed to explain their actions with regard to illegal logging operations.
Paje said his directive to suspend environment officials was intended to help fulfill the President’s green agenda, which includes a vow to cripple if not eliminate illegal logging operations.