Paje calls for bringing military into campaign vs illegal loggingBy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje wants to deploy the military in the campaign against illegal loggers in the countryside, noting the increasing danger to forest rangers, some 20 of whom have been killed in the line of duty since 2010.
“We are requesting that illegal logging operations in Davao and Caraga regions should now be considered military operations because we believe it’s not just an issue of illegal logging,” Paje told a briefing on Thursday.
He said he personally asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on the sidelines of the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 23 to provide military support to deputized forest enforcers, whose job includes monitoring illegal logging activities.
“Last SONA, we talked to Secretary Gazmin already and he is very willing to support,” Paje said.
He noted that 20 employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, including contractual workers and civil society partners, have been killed since 2010.
Recently, he said, he received another report that three more were abducted in Agusan del Sur but were released “after hours of negotiation.”
“We’re recommending that it should be a military operation, rather than just regulatory. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is already a member of the anti-illegal logging task force but we’re the lead agency. We want them to take the lead,” Paje said.
Paje said the DENR had made huge strides in reducing the number of illegal logging “hot spots” in the country, from a high of 197 sites to just 28, mostly concentrated in the Caraga and Davao regions.
But much more needs to be done, he said.
Because of illegal logging, many Philippine forests have been denuded, with only 7.6 million hectares of forest cover remaining, or about a quarter of the Philippines’ total land area of 30 million hectares. “Denuded, degraded, and barren” land covers 8.2 million hectares.
In April, President Aquino ordered a total log ban under Presidential Executive Order No. 23, which provides for “a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests of the entire country.”
Tags: Conservation , Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin , Department of Environment and Natural Resources , environment , Environment Secretary Ramon Paje , Forestry , logging , Military , News , State of the Nation Address