CAGAYAN DE ORO City, May 10, 2011â€”Logging in Northern Mindanao and in Lanao del Sur is â€œbusiness as usualâ€ despite the governmentâ€™s declared moratorium on the cutting of forest timber.
This after 20,000 board feet of lauan flitches on board two trucks, worth about P600,000, were confiscated in Barangay Puerto early morning of May 9 by the Environment departmentâ€™s anti-illegal logging strike force.
DENR operatives reported that one of the trucks tried to escape with its cargo and hurdled the checkpoint prompting authorities to chase it and caught up with it in Sitio Tin-ao, Puerto.
The Isuzu 10-wheeler truck with plate number RJY 384, contained 148 flitches of lauan wood totaling 10,607.19 board feet. It is allegedly owned by a certain Emily Chua, who owns the White and Son Sawmill in Opol, Misamis Oriental. Chua has been in the logging business since the early 1990s.
The driver of the second truck, a Fuso 10-wheeler carrying 141 lauan flitches totaling 9,584 board feet â€” a certain Casan Samer â€” has already been detained.
The Environment department in Northern Mindanao said that based on their investigation, the logs came from Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur, a part of the critical Lanao Lake watershed.
Investigation also found out that the DENR-Central Office in Manila has issued a permit on April 26, 2011to transport 1,668.28 cubic meters of logs from Maguing, Lanao del Sur to M and Jr. Sawmill in Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City and to the White and Son Sawmill.
The signatory was former DENR-Northern Mindanao director and now DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo.
It was found out that Adobo issued the permit allowing the shipment of timber products from Lanao del Sur after DENR-ARMM Secretary Usman Saranggani certified that the logs, which are allegedly owned by the Bualan Rebel Returness Cooperative led by a certain Kumander Camar M. Disambaron, were harvested or “cut prior to the effectivity of Executive Order 23.â€
Executive Order 23 was signed by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on February 1, 2011 â€œdeclaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.â€
The issuance of EO23 came following the destruction on various localities in the country by climate change-induced floods and landslides.
â€œIt is a good that these things have come to public knowledge now. This should be investigated to verify if these timber products are just awaiting transportation or cutting operations are on-going despite the ban in the already scantily-forested areas of Maguing, Lanao del Sur,â€ said Sustines Magallanes of the Centre for Alternative Rural Technology, Inc. (CART), regarding the claim that the apprehended lauan flitches were cut before EO23.
DENR 10 Chief Legal Counsel Florenda Lamason-Yap said that they are filing criminal cases against the owners of the seized products for violation of Sec. 68 of the Philippine Forestry Law or P.D. 705.
â€œThey are facing a very big case since violators of Section 68 penalizes those engaged in cutting/ harvesting, transporting and trading of illegal logs with a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, a penalty similar to that imposed in cases of qualified theft,â€ she said.
The trade of lauan, a dipterocarp tree that mostly grows in natural forests, is strictly regulated locally and internationally.
The environmental watchdog Earthsites Institute, based in the United Kingdom, revealed that dipterocarp timber like lauan, bagtikan and bangkirai from Mindanao have found their way to the UK market. (Bong D. Fabe)