Illegal loggers threaten Dumagat forest rangers
CITY OF MALOLOS — Dumagat forest rangers tasked with protecting the watersheds serving the Angat and Ipo dams, have been threatened and harassed by illegal loggers, prompting environmental groups to seek the help of President Duterte.
The groups reported the danger being faced by 87 Dumagat forest guards, who recently helped the government confiscate P500,000 worth of illegally cut trees from the timberland, in a letter that was transmitted to Malacañang on Feb. 13, said Frederick Ochavo, a member of the group University of the Philippines Mountaineers.
“Almost every day, for the past ten years, illegal logging, timber poaching, charcoal-making and slash-and-burn farming have been reported in areas around the Ipo and Angat Dam watershed areas,” said the letter signed by Ochavo and groups like the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society Inc.
The watersheds serve at least 12.8 million residents of Metro Manila, the letter said.
Angat Dam supplies 97 percent of the daily water requirements of Metro Manila.
The Dumagat were contracted by the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System to protect the 6,600-hectare Ipo Watershed. Dumagat also help watch over the 63,000-ha Angat Watershed.
“At present only a small and committed team of 87 Bantay Gubat Dumagat forest rangers—unarmed and defenseless—patrol the mountains,” said the letter.
“They bravely face armed syndicates of illegal loggers without protection [or] insurance,” it added.
The letter attached photographic evidence of forest denudation compiled by the signatories.
Ochavo said uncontrolled logging had “dried up the streams and creeks, caused soil erosion and siltation of dams, created landslides, affected irrigation systems and ultimately reduced the water supply of the dams, creating an alarming water crisis for Metro Manila.” —Carmela Reyes-Estrope
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