Byline: MIKE U. CRISMUNDO
BANCASI, Butuan City President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday ordered Environment Secretary Michael T. Defensor to lift the total log ban in the Caraga region and in Davao.
"I will order Secretary Defensor now to lift the total log ban in the Caraga region and Davao," the President said upon her arrival at Bancasi Airport here.
The Chief Executive, who was accompanied by Secretary Defensor and Department of Land Reform (DLR) Secretary Rene Villa, was welcomed by top officials in the Caraga region led by Butuan City Mayor Democrito Plaza, chairman of the Caraga Regional Development Council (RDC); Butuan City Rep. Leovigildo Banaag, Rep. Ma. Angelica Rosedel Amante, and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr.
President Arroyo, however, emphasized that the governments anti-illegal logging operation throughout the country will continue until big time illegal loggers, log traders, and timber poachers are charged in court.
The Chief Executive was in a two-day swing in the Caraga region to push her economic agenda in the countryside, particularly for the poor farmers and indigenous people in farflung areas.
President Arroyo had ordered Defensor last December, 2004, to suspend the cutting of timber and operation of all wood processing plants throughout the country following the devastating storms and typhoons that struck Aurora and Quezon provinces late last year.
Last Dec. 8 and 14, 2004, Defensor suspended timber harvesting in Community-based Forest Management (CBFM), Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA), Integrated Social Forestry (ISF), Timber License Agreement (TLA), and Social Integrated Forest Management Agreement (SIFMA) areas, followed by a Jan. 28 memorandum which closed all sawmills and wood processing plants.
With the suspension, thousands of workers were displaced and 95,000 children had to stop studies in the Caraga region alone, along with 10,000 families with close to 50,000 children in Misamis Oriental and 12,000 families with 70,000 dependents in Cagayan de Oro City, the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA) said.
Wood plant workers and tree farmers staged protest rallies in Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao cities last month to lift the suspension order of President Arroyo.
Mindanao, particularly the Caraga region, is the base of tree plantation activities. Tree plantation developers and tree farmers conducted reforestation and tree planting starting in the early 1970s. Caraga is also the biggest wood producer of the country which requires 1.2-million cubic meters of wood every year, it was learned.
The anti-illegal logging campaign in the Caraga region, particularly in Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, and Agusan del Norte the past 90 days led to the apprehension of 4,756.86 cubic meters of wood and the filing of 95 cases against alleged illegal loggers, log and lumber traders, and wood operators for violation of PD 705, the Forestry Code of the Philippines.
Defensor immediately ordered DENR Regional Executive Directors Benjamin T. Tumaliuan in Caraga and Edilberto Buiser in Southern Mindanao (Davao) to lift the "no movement of forest products" policy while implementing forestry laws, rules, and regulations.
The DENR chief also ordered a thorough review and validation of all operations of holders of CBFM, ISF, TLA, IFMA, and SIFMA areas.
No letup in drive against illegal logging
There would be no letup in the campaign against illegal logging.
This was vowed by President Arroyo yesterday despite her earlier directive to lift the selective suspension of logging operations in the country, notably in Davao and Caraga.
The President made the pronouncement after authorizing Environment Secretary Michael Defensor to allow the immediate resumption of logging operations in the Caraga region to meet the national requirements for wood amounting to three million cubic meters annually. …