3 firms linked to illegal logging in Lanao Sur, says ARRMM acting gov
ZAMBOANGA CITY – At least three logging companies have been using Integrated Forest Management Agreements (Ifmas) issued to them to illegally cut trees in the forested areas of Lanao del Sur, acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said.
Ifma is a production sharing contract wherein the government allows a company the right to develop and manage tree plantation areas. The company is also allowed to harvest the trees in its Ifma area during the 25-year life of the contract.
But Hataman, who started an investigation into the illegal logging activities in the region following the December 17 devastating floods that hit Iligan City, said the Ifmas were being used to illegally harvest trees in the towns of Tagoloan, Sapad and Nunungan.
He said he summoned three former ARMM environment secretaries — Faizal Randy Karon, Kabuntalan Emblawa and Usman Sarangani — to explain why the activities were allowed.
“They must explain why they allowed several companies to operate and log in some towns using the Ifma,” Hataman said.
Logging has repeatedly been banned in the five-province region.
When he assumed office two weeks ago, Hataman’s first act was to prohibit the issuance of new logging licenses and the cancellation of existing ones in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu.
He said documents that his office retrieved from the start of the investigation showed that the three officials “signed the request of these companies.”
Hataman would not identify the companies as of yet.
He said that in line with the investigation, he also ordered the removal of ranking provincial, municipal and city environment officials and named in their places officers-in-charge.
Hataman said by relieving ranking environment officials of their duties, he had removed a layer of barrier in the efforts to uncover the extent of and who were behind the illegal logging activities in the region.
“I don’t have the list right now but I have already issued the directive last Monday,” Hataman said.
He said the relieved officials were also being investigated for their possible role in the existence of illegal logging in the region.
“Rank and file employees and other individuals can help us by reporting questionable transactions and dealings committed by their superiors, I am just a phone call or a text message away,” he said.
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