MAGUING, Lanao del Sur (MindaNews/18 Dec) – Eleven truckloads of illegally cut logs, mostly endangered hardwood species, were seized in an anti-illegal logging operations Saturday by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources( DENR-ARMM).
DENR-ARMM Secretary Kahal Kedtag, local government officials and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members led the closure of three sawmills found operating illegally and whose operations had reached Malacanang due to complaints from local residents.
Close to 30,000 board feet of various type of hardwood logs from the three sawmills were immediately turned-over to the Anti-Illegal Logging Task-Force in Lanao del Sur while the sawmill facilities were spray painted with the word “closed.”
Kedtag said he laments some residents are irresponsibly cutting trees in the watershed of Lake Lanao.
“They call it timber poaching, where they gather all the cut logs and then start to slice here in the sawmill before selling it to potential buyers,” Kedtag said.
In 2012, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman issued an Executive Order declaring a total log ban in all five provinces and two cities of the ARMM – Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.
Kedtag said there is a need to protect the watershed because it is not only the source of water for the residents but also the source of the hydroelectric power plants that supply more than half of Mindanao’s electricity needs.
Illegal logging was among the factors that exacerbated the situation when typhoon Sendong struck Lanao, Misamis Orietnal and Bukidnon on December 16-17, 2011.
Thousands of logs were found on the shores of Iligan the morning after. Neric Acosta, then Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection who joined then President Aquino in an aerial survey of the devastation described it as “like a tsunami in reverse-from coast to sea, a tsunami from the uplands” and the estimated 6,000 logs that rolled down the mountains as a “carpet of logs and debris lining the Iligan coast.”
Iligan City reported on its website then that 5,683 houses and two elementary schools were totally damaged and 16,788 homes partially damaged. Most of these were destroyed when logs slammed on houses and schools at the height of floods brought about by Sendong.
A total of 890 dead bodies were recovered, 666 of them identified while the remaining 224 were unidentified. At least 566 persons were reported missing while 4,511 were injured.
On January 17, 2012, Iligan’s Representative to Congress, Vicente Belmonte, delivered a privilege speech urgng a legislative inquiry following the resolution of Iligan’s City Council that urged the national government to create a task force force to probe illegal logging operations despite then President Benigno Aquino’s total log ban directive issued in 2011.
Belmonte said the investigative body will determine and identify loggers who are operating in the hinterland communities of the two Lanao provinces and to stop these companies from wanton destruction of the remaining forest reserves in Lanao.
Kedtag also said they noticed deforested areas had been converted to plantations of high-value crops such as cacao, coffee, rubber and falcata.
“I think we don’t just blame the timber cutters, we need to take also efforts and strategy to help these local folks engaged in illegal logging shift to other sources of living” he said.
Kedtag said they are still gathering information on the identity of the sawmill operators and preparing legal charges against them. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)