Aquino to AFP: Get illegal loggers



Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. AP

President Benigno Aquino has authorized the military to take over the campaign against illegal loggers in Mindanao from the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) after 25 of the force’s civilian members were killed in less than two years, officials said.

The AILTF, composed of three Cabinet secretaries, the military chief of staff and national police chief, recently issued a resolution converting the campaign against illegal loggers in Mindanao from a “civilian to a military operation.”

The resolution, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, cited two major reasons for the shift in strategy: the killing of 25 agents and partners, and the presence of insurgents and armed groups in the areas.

“This is an offshoot of the situation in Mindanao, wherein we have armed groups. No. 2, we lost people, and No. 3, we have indications that maybe some of the task force personnel are already compromised,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, AILTF chairman, said by phone.

AILTF Executive Director Renato Miranda said illegal loggers were employing private armed groups and sometimes were getting help from communist rebels.

“The other side has firepower,” Miranda said also in a phone interview.

The resolution was signed by Paje as AILTF chairman, and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa and Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome as members, according to Paje.

This has been cleared with the President, Paje added.

Final blow

“The President has agreed. It’s justified because the area is infested with the Left,” he said. “This is now the final blow to the loggers.”

In February 2011, Mr. Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 imposing a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests. This also established the AILTF, which in turn formed a civilian contingent to handle the task force’s day-to-day operations.

So far, the government has seized some 19.2 million board feet of logs worth at least P150 million, and filed cases against 540 individuals, leading to the conviction of at least 72 across the country.

Illegal logging “hot spots” throughout the country were whittled down from 197 to 31, 80 percent of which is in Mindanao, Paje said.

Refocus campaign

In July this year, the AILTF was instructed to refocus its campaign in illegal logging “hot spots,” including  Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur in Caraga, and Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental in Region XI.

The campaign came at a cost—the deaths of 25 AILTF personnel, including soldiers and policemen, and partners.

This prompted the AILTF to hold a special meeting on Sept. 11, where Paje, Gazmin, Dellosa and other senior military officials agreed to modify the campaign strategy from a civilian operation to an active military operation “in view of the presence of insurgency and armed groups” in Mindanao.

“We didn’t want to lose more human capital,” Paje said.

But the resolution was partly prompted too by Miranda’s admission that some task force personnel “may have been compromised,” Paje said.

Miranda said he received information about a possible “collusion” between some personnel and loggers, but added that he had no evidence of this.

Confronted by Robredo

Before dying in a plane crash on Aug. 18, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo “confronted” Miranda about his meeting with logging concessionaires in Region XIII or the Caraga Region. Miranda, a retired military general, explained that he was extracting information from them.

“I already explained that to Secretary Robredo when he was alive,” Miranda said on Sunday.

In August, special assistant Isoceles Otero reported to Robredo that an AILTF agent in Surigao was collecting money from key players in the illegal logging trade supposedly on Miranda’s orders. Miranda strongly denied the charges and even offered to quit.

Miranda said he had yet to discuss an offer by Paje to be part of the department’s “mobilization program” in Luzon and the Visayas after his stint with the AILTF.

The Department of National Defense, through the AFP, will lead in confiscating illegally cut lumber and arresting violators. The PNP, on the other hand, will lead in the arrest of loggers and the filing of cases against them, according to the resolution.

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  • MonMayuga

    This is where the full force of the government can be used. Those illegal loggers respect no law, only their own insatiable greed. No one should be allowed to roam the mountains and the forests during the military operations and those caught violating the order should be arrested and use the necessary means to subdue them if they resist.

  • Ronald Diaz

    Etong si Miranda napansin ko puro nalng alibi o palaging may rason pag pinag-uusapan na ang illegal logging. Siya rin ang itinutukoy nung agent noon ni Sec.Robredo na protector. PNOY siguro panahon na para tanggalin sa pwesto si Miranda wla naman siyang ginawang mabuti sa kanyang trabaho. Kelangan ng taong bayan ang taong sincere at mapagkakatiwalaan sa trabaho at higit sa lahat may output hindi puro daldal.

  • randyaltarejos

    Correct me if I’m wrong. With Miranda as head of the task force, baka naman sya ang maging tipster sa mga illegal loggers every time na magkakaroon ng raid sa isang lugar. Kasi kung me bahid na ang integrity ng isang tao, maaring di na ito maganda sa paningin ng publiko.

  • nti_boohaya

    Dapat lang sa PMA at PNPA eto sabihin dahil kahit na may mga detachment sa paanan ng mga bundok e bulag at pipi sila tungkol sa illegal logging na yan.  Pagsabihan din sana lahat ng lokal na opisyales mula CVO to kapitan to mayor to gov to congressman na itigil na bawas bawasan na ang illegal logging na yan.  Just visit their houses and there you see traces of illegal logging. 

  • KonsensyaNgBayan

    Mar Roxas is no JESSE ROBREDO!!..There is only one Jesse Robredo who is real and true for Good Governance!!!…Inspired and be like one, Action and Perseverance for a better Philippines!!..Eliminate Illegal Loggings and All Minings!!

  • Josemakabayan

    Why move only after 25 civilian volunteers are killed before bringing in the military??? Does it really need for somebody to get killed before doing anything , which is part and parcel of our leaders sworn duty ???? That’s why the press term this government as lackadaisical !!!!!!

  • AlexanderAmproz

    Illegal logging will stop the day there is no more tree’s !

    Illegal fishing will stop the day there is no more fish’s !

    Only Mayor’s, Governor’s and Coast Guards have no information about it !

    Philippines have special silent Dynamite and chain’s saw, but keep it secret !

    Priest dancing with them or get tag NPA and killed !

    Have fun in the Philippines, Amazing Philippines !

  • boybakal

    Why the Illegal loggers are blamed for the destruction of forest or sa pagkakalbo.
    When the illegal loggers came, there is none to cut timber as the Legal loggers already barbered the forests.
    Who are they….the politician loggers.
    Ask the Mindanaons and they know the politician loggers, they are big names in their area.
    There are no illegal loggers for there are no more tree to log….panggatong nalang ang natira.

  • Reynaldo Quijada

    The President should be more forthright. Sec Paje as denr sec has not delivered in stopping illegal logging, why not replace him with general Danny Lim who is known for his no nonsense mentality?? Illegal loggers have been operating with impunity due to their connect with the DENR and other agencie like the lgum pnp and yes some wayward elements of the military. So would you believe that Sec Paje did not know all along all of these illegal logging activities during his stint as Secretary? Did the President conduct a study and determine the common denominator among these players in illegal loggng or determine how are they related to each other up to the top echelon of the government???

  • disqusted0fu

    AFP to Aquino: Get real and sign the FOI bill.

  • Jon

    Parang wala ka nang tiwala sa bata mong si Sec. Paje at military na ang tatrabaho.
    Nui minsan di naman niya ginalang ang utos mo at ipinagpatuloy pa rin niya ang illegal logging.
    Mas malaki daw kasi ang ganansya sa illegal logging kesa sa sumunod sa kagustuhan ng hari.

  • Your_King

    Philippines to Aquino: Get to doing some real work.


    IS THIS EVEN SERIOUS? Instead of Miranda merely denying the accusations by Isoceles Otero in his confidential report to the late DILG secretary Jessie Robredo, and “offering” to quit,  he should just OFFER HIMSELF TO BE INVESTIGATED if he truly is not working in collusion with the illegal loggers in the Caraga region. His death must have been a relief to all of you, correct?

    Offered to quit. YOU are funny, General Miranda. And to what? To get away with the accusations? THIS is hopeless. Ngayon maliban sa DENR, tuta niyo na rin ang DILG. And this BALDING DUDE is either naive or just plain dumb or scared.

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