DENR forms probe teams on Mindanao illegal logging

A July 16, 2012 press release from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje has formed two fact-finding teams that would look into the liability of the agency’s field officers “either by negligence or collusion with illegal loggers” for the continued illegal logging operations in Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and the Caraga region (Region 13).

“There is a need to pinpoint as to who should really made answerable and accountable for all this blatant disregard of our environmental laws, which would impact not only on us but also the generations of Filipinos that will come after us,” Paje said.

On February 1, 2011, President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 declaring a moratorium on the cutting of timber in natural and residual forests nationwide.  The order also directed the DENR to refrain from issuing tree-cutting permits.

Despite this, the DENR continues to apprehend big volumes of undocumented logs and other forest products in Mindanao or in some other places but the origin of the forest products had been traced to the said island.

Paje cited the case of 55 vans of lumber, which were apprehended at North Harbor in Manila last June 28 by joint teams of the DENR and other law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Ports Authority, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs and Manila Police Department-Station I. The cargo, according to him, was loaded in MV Lorcon Dumaguete, which sailed from Davao City.

“Wala na halos sa Luzon, but the bulk of the confiscations we have been making have been traced to Mindanao particularly in Regions 11 and 13. This is unacceptable in light of EO 23 which has been in effect for over a year now,” he stressed.

Paje also said that the confiscations were “actually, by themselves, a negation of the real intent behind the issuance EO 23 which is to prevent the trees inside the natural forests from being cut.”

Last week, Paje directed the relief of some 31 DENR officials and employees in Regions 11 and 13 (CARAGA), including two regional executive directors for their alleged failure to stop illegal logging in their respective areas.

“This move is in keeping with the President’s pledge to the people that his administration’s green agenda will be marked by his political will to break the backbone of illegal logging,” Paje said.

As of June 30, a total of 33 DENR personnel were either dismissed, suspended, fined or reprimanded, 34 were formally charged, while 180 more were issued with show-cause memoranda.

Meanwhile, DENR-National Capital Region Executive Director Neria Andin said that she has already requested the assistance of various law enforcement agencies to secure the 55 vans of lumber now deposited at Pier Zone.

According to her, the hot cargo had already been unloaded from MV Lorcon Dumaguete and covered with Hold Order No. 06-12-12 issued by the Bureau of Customs.

She also said that she has mobilized additional forestry sector personnel from her office to secure the cargo round the clock.