Año orders crackdown on illegal logging, quarrying
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has launched a nationwide crackdown on illegal logging and illegal quarrying following successive typhoons that caused destructive floods in wide areas of the country recently.
“We must act quickly and in a whole-of-society fashion to protect our remaining forests across the country, otherwise we are creating and causing more disasters,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Monday.
“The flooding brought by Typhoon ‘Ulysses’ is a harsh reminder that we are failing at doing our level best to protect the environment, especially our remaining forest cover,” he said in a statement.
Ulysses (international name: Vamco) killed at least 73 people and caused widespread flooding in Luzon, including low-lying communities in Metro Manila, when it pounded the country more than a week ago.
Authorities placed damage to agriculture and infrastructure at P12.8 billion.
Biodiversity experts and environmentalists had earlier called for the restoration and conservation of the Philippines’ existing forests as a core part of the country’s disaster risk reduction plans, and for “nature-based solutions” and adaptation measures that will provide benefits to communities, with or without the occurrence of disasters.
Año directed all local governments and the Philippine National Police to stop illegal logging and illegal quarrying in their areas and to plant trees to restore the country’s forest cover in the wake of Ulysses’ onslaught.
On Tuesday, the House committee on agriculture and food will begin its investigation into the massive flooding in Cagayan, Isabela, and other parts of Luzon, aggravated by the release of excess water from Magat Dam.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco stressed that the panel would seek to “establish facts that could lead to corrective actions, and not to find fault,” and to come up with long-term solutions to floods and other disasters due to typhoons.
Año said the widespread flooding in Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Rizal and Metro Manila, especially Marikina City should be a wake-up call to all to “protect our remaining forest cover, preserve our rich biodiversity, and allow our forests to regenerate and grow again.”
All local governments and PNP units must give priority to environmental protection, particularly when the Philippines is calamity-prone, he said.
More forest guards
The interior secretary directed them to reactivate their anti-illegal logging task forces in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, set up checkpoints, and arrest illegal loggers for violations of the Forestry Code of the Philippines and of Republic Act No. 9175, or the Chainsaw Act of 2002.
Año urged local governments to field more forest guards and the DENR to send more foresters and engage local communities and civil society groups in reforestation programs, particularly the National Greening Program.
The House investigation was prompted by a resolution filed by Speaker Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano seeking an inquiry into the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.
Also referred to the panel was House Resolution No. 1345 filed by Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, who wanted an inquiry into the “untimely and irresponsible opening of floodgates and dams” in Luzon.
The committee, chaired by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, will invite officials of the National Irrigation Administration and local officials of Cagayan and Isabela to attend its hearing.
Velasco said the probe would also tackle proper protocols and preparedness for natural disasters.
“There will be more typhoons that will come our way, and we have to become better at preparations and in handling situations that call for sound judgment to prevent deaths and loss of properties from happening,” the Speaker said.
“The aim here is to come up with solutions and legislation, if needed, to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives and properties during typhoons,” he added. —REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND JULIE M. AURELIO INQ
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