DENR personnel in Aurora accused of abetting illegal logging
MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino’s order imposing a moratorium on the cutting of timber may have gone unnoticed in Casiguran, Aurora.
Local officials of Casiguran are furious that a logging company got away with harvesting and transporting “freshly cut’’ undocumented logs with the aid of Department of Environment and Natural Resources personnel despite the moratorium.
The officials said that Aurora’s provincial environment and natural resources officer (PENRO) and Casiguran’s community environment and natural resources officer (CENRO) cleared the release of the logs despite the logging moratorium.
Municipal councilor Zosimo Danay Jr. said two trucks transporting 18 pieces of “freshly cut” Lauan logs from Sierra Madre were intercepted by a team of enforcers at a checkpoint in Barangay Dibacong at dawn of April 28.
He said the team found that the logs lacked hatchet and log marks (that would indicate from which area they were cut) and documents such as certificate of timber origin and auxiliary, contrary to guidelines, and were transported in unregistered trucks without plates.
The team then issued seizure orders for the logs, which belonged to the RCC Timber Company Inc.
The logs were undocumented and hence, violated the Executive Order No. 23, issued by President Aquino in February imposing a moratorium on logging throughout the country, according to Danay.
The RCC is a holder of the IFMA or the Integrated Forest Management Agreement that authorizes it to haul, process, transport and dispose inventoried logs cut before EO 23, in Casiguran and Dinalungan towns.
Danay said they have received fresh reports of timber cutting in the area this month.
“I had sent a team to investigate it. I had a strong feeling that there’s a violation,’’ retired Gen. Renato Miranda, head of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force based in the DENR, said in an interview on Wednesday.
On the day of the seizure, foresters Zaldy Estabillo and Jun Bata under CENRO Alfredo Collado arrived at the checkpoint to vouch that the logs were “old cut,’’ despite claims by the truck drivers that these were “freshly cut,’’ according to Danay.
The next day, on April 29, Danay, chair of the municipal council’s committee on environment, was surprised to find that 14 of the seized logs suddenly bore hatchet and log marks.
Danay, who executed an affidavit, said DENR scaler Renato Gonzales had admitted that he carved the marks the night before on the orders of PENRO Benjamin Miña.
On May 13, Miña ordered the police to release the logs, saying that the logs were “old logs,” that the absence of marks had been justified by the company, and that the certificate of timber origin was not required for their transport, and that the trucks, while unregistered, were haulers of the logging company.
“They get away with it because the DENR personnel are on their side,” Fr. Jose Francisco Talaban, parish priest of Nuestra Señora dela Salvacion in Barangay Bianoan and member of the Task Force, said in an interview in Manila in May.
According to Danay, Miña issued the release order without waiting for the full investigation report of the Task Force. Casiguran Mayor Reynaldo Bitong had written Miña to ask for the basis of the release of the logs.
“I’m willing to face an investigation,” Miña said in an interview, scoffing at insinuations that he was in cahoots with the logging companies. “That’s foolish. They have to prove that. I’m just doing my job.”
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