Latest Stories


Log ban falls hard on wood workers


While illegal loggers feast on forests left vulnerable by corruption and weak enforcement of the government’s moratorium on logging operations, thousands of wood industry workers throughout the Caraga region face the adversities of joblessness.

For Carlos Cubero, a longtime forester at Surigao Development Corp. (Sudecor), that means having to tell his son he can’t enroll in college when classes opened in June.

Cubero, 52, and some 1,200 Sudecor workers were affected by the closure of the company’s veneer and plywood plants in Cantilan town early this year, following the implementation of Executive Order No. 23, which declared a total log ban on both natural and residual forests.

The ban’s aftermath has hit hard on workers like Cubero, who have been in the wood industry for so long and are finding it difficult to shift to other jobs, or are too old to start anew. And there are thousands like him, as Caraga remains the country’s largest wood producer, accounting for at least 60 percent of the country’s wood supply.


“I’ve been in the company for 26 years and I can’t simply be job-hopping when I wake up tomorrow,” Cubero said. “With my job gone, so too are the loan facilities that would have helped pay for my son’s tuition.”

Alfredo Sorella, president of Sudecor’s 300-strong labor union, joined the 50-year-old Sudecor in 1976, when he was 21. Suddenly finding himself jobless at 58, he had to take up fishing.

“The transition was painful. My job was my life and suddenly it was taken away—just when I was about to retire,” he said, lamenting that the work stoppage has created uncertainties on his retirement benefits.

Sudecor said the laid-off workers would be rehired once the company starts operating again, but it was uncertain about the retirees’ compensation.

Throughout the region, workers from over a hundred wood-processing companies face the same bleak prospects.

In Butuan City alone, the local government estimated that 5,000 workers were displaced when the ban was imposed, as the local wood industry is heavily reliant on logs from residual forests. A major industry player, Richmond Plywood Corp., said it might retrench some 1,000 workers more.



Municipalities and national line agencies are scrambling to address the mass layoffs.

Last week, Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. said youths coming from the affected families would be provided scholarships under a P3.8-million grant provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda). Some 75 scholars will receive P10,500 each to fund 34 days of training in welding, heavy equipment operation, masonry and electricity.

Educational assistance, however, does not address the immediate need to put food on the table, and other livelihood programs are widely seen as stopgap measures—and even wanting.

Of the 3,200 laid-off wood workers in Butuan that it documented in March, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) managed to find jobs for only 500.

In smaller towns where large concessions such as Sudecor’s operate, expecting for government assistance seems to be a wish for the impossible. In fact, towns such as Cantilan, Carmen, Madrid, Carascal and Lanuza—the seat of Sudecor’s 75,000-hectare managed forest—expect lower revenues with the company’s inactivity.

“We expect nothing from the local government. With a log ban policy that doesn’t make  exemptions even on well-managed, strictly guarded forests such as Sudecor’s, everybody loses,” said Sorella, a former labor union president.

Who wins?

The runaway winners, Sorella said, are the illegal loggers who are in cahoots with corrupt government officials, and those who exploit loopholes in EO 23 to cut and transport dipterocarps—a family of hardwood trees—from natural and residual forests.

Wood industry stakeholders and pro-environment groups in Surigao del Sur agree. They pointed out that illegal logging still persists in the province even after authorities discovered thousands of illegally cut lauaan flitches at a warehouse of a suspected illegal logger in Butuan on Sept. 25.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Employment , logging , Surigao del Sur

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. In the know: Gigi Reyes
  4. SC suspends proctor in 2011 bar exams
  5. Senator Pimentel backs German think tank’s stand vs dynasties
  6. Bar proctor suspended for photographing test papers
  7. Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
  8. Meteor shower to light up PH skies
  9. What Went Before: Enrile denies Gigi Reyes was ‘other woman’
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • $57-B mega plan to solve Metro’s mega woes
  • Aquino vows to step up fight against corruption
  • Santiago scoffs at rushing defense pact for Obama visit
  • Former solon, 2 others sanctioned for unfair labor practice
  • Let us pray for the nation, healing priest asks leaders
  • Sports

  • What Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather could do
  • PH Am match play golf under way at Orchard
  • Road Warriors target win No. 6 vs Oilers
  • UE Warriors test new system in Filoil Hanes Cup
  • Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
  • Lifestyle

  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Marketplace