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PIA Press Release

Group alarmed over massive logging

By Mai Gevera

Mati, Davao Oriental (20 October) -- A haven of hundred-year old "lawaan", "narra", and sought-after tree species, Davao Oriental Province became the "Eden" of money-thirsty businessmen sipping the juicy resources out from its origin.

Fr. Darwey Clark, Cateel town parish priest, has seen how trees protected the parishioners, benefited them, destroyed by them, and how his people were slowly destroyed.

" The people relied much on the wood just for their survival. I would understand that but we have also seen how the rich and the powerful abused the people's need for survival." Fr. Clark narrated the never-ending recurrence and intensification of logging activities in his town and some nearby municipalities.

The people from the 70 communities in Cateel knew the business as they have participated and tolerated the said industry. They kept mum for life but they couldn't keep mum forever as it slowly takes life.

After the total log ban was lifted, trucks began moving around town and residents then earned more by cutting. Of the 16 barangays in Cateel, only six were not bald. Data showed that there's an average of 20 truckloads of logs per day from Cateel that goes out to Lambajon, Baganga, the nearest town after Cateel while about 10 truckloads of logs take the Compostela route.

Illegal Logging in Mindanao

Fr. Clark blamed not the law enforcers such as the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as residents could attest their visibility in apprehending illegal transactions.

However, what made the enforcement flawed was the existing government programs under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) like the IFMA, CBFMA, and CFP which allows allowable number of trees to be cut on designated areas.

The PNP claimed that truck drivers do have the required permits that gave them no reason to be apprehended.

"The illegal loggers got out from the trap because they are too wise to ride on the legal government projects," Fr. Clark said.

The PNP noted that some truck drivers would usually recycle permits when no enforcer would check and verify. The said agency also admitted some flaws due to limited manpower.

The concerned group was never against the IFMA and other programs before. However, it turned out that no clear-cut rules on the implementation were set and followed that justified even the illegal operations.

The St. James the Apostle Multi-Sectoral Alliance, initiated by Fr. Clark, cited some incapacity and organizational constraints of the DENR to protect and regulate the natural resources and its biodiversity.

Another factor cited is the absence of the LGUs strong political will that could have halted such operations if seriously addressed.

"Lisod kalabanon ang mga taong naa sa pwesto," said one resident who opted not to be named. "Kaila mi diri kung kinsa ang utok sa pagpamutol ug kami nakasabot ngano dili kini daling maundang. (It's hard to fight against the people who are in high positions. We know who the people behind these illegal logging activities that's why we understand why these can't easily be stopped?

Cateel Chief of Police Rodolfo de los Reyes reported that the PNP's campaign against illegal logging intensifies more after the Aliwagwag Bailey Bridge incident which took place last August 20, 2006 and killed nine residents.

Joint efforts from the church, non-government organizations, and local government units pushed for the strict apprehension and confiscation of illegally cut logs.

In the report submitted by De los Reyes, apprehended trucks turned out to be owned by politicians and famous personalities in the town and neighboring municipalities.

This has pushed concerned parishioners, the church, NGOs, the PNP and AFP to unite for one cause and that's to deliberately stop illegal logging and push for a total log ban in the province.

The group has initiated educational campaigns in the community to empower the people so they won't remain passive on the issue. Alliance members have also reached out to LGUs and national government agencies to stress the need for a solution.

"We can only do this much. We cannot allow another Leyte Tragedy in Davao Oriental," Fr. Clark said. (PIA XI) [top]

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