CULION, Palawan—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) padlocked on Saturday a plush island-resort here following a raid conducted by provincial authorities on the 18-hectare property that yielded a huge volume of illegal lumber.
The move came after the Palawan Philippine National Police and the provincial government’s environmental enforcement arm Bantayan Palawan raided on Thursday the Chinese-owned Sunlight Hotel and Resort on Naglayan Island, after three weeks of surveillance and following the issuance of a search warrant by Palawan Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Jocelyn Dilig.
The company has the entire Naglayan Island as its resort facility, which is 15 minutes by speed boat from the main town of Culion in northern Palawan.
A Chinese national managing the resort, identified as Alvin Lim and suspected to be an undocumented alien, was arrested and brought to Puerto Princesa City for inquest.
Governor Jose Alvarez ordered the immediate confiscation of the stockpiled illegal lumber and its transport to the capital to be used as evidence in the filing of criminal charges against the resort owners.
Assistant provincial legal counsel Teodoro Jose Matta led an ocular inspection of the property on Saturday and described the apprehension as “the single biggest illegal logging apprehension we’ve had in Palawan in recent years.”
DENR personnel were still completing an inventory of the confiscated illegal lumber which is estimated to run up to over 100,000 board feet, excluding wood materials already used to build the resort’s cottages and other facilities.
“At least 553 trees must have been cut down to build that resort, given an estimated 100,000 board feet of lumber confiscated,” Alvarez told the Inquirer.
A commercial logging ban has been in place in Palawan since the early 1990s and the local lumber demand is supplied by accredited dealers selling mostly imported wood.
“The entire resort is teeming with illegal wood, from railings built from mangrove trunks to narra toilet cubicles. They have so much of it they were using banned hardwood as ceiling joints and even garbage bins,” Matta said.
Matta said the resort was already partially operating when the raid was conducted. It has a lumberyard and furniture workshop with stockpiles of freshly cut lumber still being dried under the sun.
“I have no doubt all of these came from our forests here in Culion and around the Calamianes Islands,” Virginia de Vera, a local volunteer who joined the inspection team, told the Inquirer.
Police Insp. Rey Perez Casaol, Culion police chief, said they also apprehended a suspected local supplier of illegal lumber after he was caught by the raiding team trying to unload a boatload of lumber during the raid.
The resort’s online booking website described the facility as a luxury ecotourism resort with close to a thousand villas built above the water surrounding the island. It’s published rate for villa accommodation is at least $1,000 a day.
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