Crackdown on ‘carabao logging’ in LuzonPhilippine Daily Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY—The environment offices of the Cordillera, the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon have combined their manpower with the police and the military to crack down on “carabao logging” and kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) that have evaded authorities for years.
The joint effort was prompted by a series of attacks on foresters, including the murder of a forestry official in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, in February, said Clarence Baguilat, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) director in the Cordillera.
Melania Dirain, 46, DENR Sanchez Mira forest specialist, was shot and killed by a lone gunman in her office at the DENR compound in Barangay Centro 2 on Feb. 7. The attack was recorded on closed-circuit television installed in her office.
Baguilat said Dirain had been compiling information about illegal logging activities in Cagayan Valley.
He said the Cordillera lost forester Kennedy Bayani in Luna, Apayao, who was gunned down in July 2010.
All four regional offices have compiled information that pinpoints where the illegal operations take place, the escape routes taken by loggers in the adjoining forest covers of the four regions, and the furniture markets which loggers supply, Baguilat said.
“The joint regional operations can be more strategic in addressing logging. We can pool funds to operate checkpoints along roads near hidden logging exit points in the forests. We will be secured by the police or the closest military detachment,” he said.
DENR officials in the four regions met in Baguio last week to discuss the task force’s responsibilities, Baguilat said.
Members of the task force discussed strategies at the DENR office here, aided by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Cordillera police and the 501st and 503rd Infantry Brigades of the Philippine Army.
Baguilat said illegal loggers were organized and had been known to retaliate against foresters when DENR enforces a crackdown.
“We are now under such a crackdown because President Aquino has issued Executive Order No. 23,” he said, referring to a directive restoring a logging ban and activating the antiillegal logging task force.
The “carabao loggers,” a euphemism for small-scale poachers, and the better equipped timber poachers supply furniture shops in Cagayan Valley, he said.
Baguilat said the agency had been able to keep track of supply because it had a monthly audit of wood supply and demand in the regions.
In the Cordillera last year, DENR records showed that 89,888.04 cubic meters of forest products were used by furniture shops, construction work and households and establishments that rely on firewood and charcoal. The total demand in 2011 was supplied by licensed timber farms and importers.
Fuel wood consumption last year was recorded at 80,843.4 cubic meters, the DENR said. The highest consumers were Baguio City, Ifugao and Abra.
Baguilat said Cordillera officials had seized poached timber worth P1.5 billion.
“Some loggers already refine and polish the trees they cut so they can hide them in SUVs (sport utility vehicles) as they sneak past checkpoints,” he said.
The Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and the Ilocos are cooperating under an inter-regional watershed management initiative. The Cordillera has defined itself as a watershed cradle for northern Philippines, because it is the source of 13 major river basins that flow into lowland provinces. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon