RP's anti-illegal logging czar wanted sustainable livelihood put in place before total log ban

by Ben Serrano

     January 16, 2011


            BUTUAN CITY (PNA)  - The head of the government’s anti-illegal logging and illegal mining task force yesterday claimed that President Aquino was ill-advised in his plans to issue total log ban in six provinces in the country which includes Caraga region on Monday.

              " Declaring total log ban without offering immediate source of livelihood is very untimely especially when prices of basic goods, cost of living and petroleum prices thus transportation fares are increasing. Gradual or partial log ban maybe appropriate with implementation of the full force of the law against illegal loggers" says Task Force head. 


            During his first official visit here Friday, President Aquino announced he is planning to issue moratorium through an executive order on all logging activities or total log ban in six provinces including Caraga region if not in the entire country.


            “If only the President will only personally see for himself how poor most tree farmers are thus they ended up victims of this mafia-like illegal logging and illegal mining activities perpetuated by those in power and authority in cahoots with corrupt DENR officials and their wealthy businessmen and wood traders’ friends. The President will be thinking twice before even signing total log ban order” says DENR’s Manila-based Task Force Pagbabago Commander former Philippine Marines Commandant retired Major Gen. Renato Miranda.


            Miranda admitted he is hurt inside whenever he sees poor tree farmers who cut tree forests for a living being victimized by greediness of wealthy wood traders corrupting people in power and authority at the expense of the destruction of mother nature.


            He said middlemen sent by wealthy traders in logging areas in Caraga region and in hinterland areas in Gingoog City where illegal logging thrives do not only exploit local log cutters but also abused them by buying wood products at very, very cheap price.


            “Halos hngiin na lang yung illegally cut logs dahil masyado mura ang bili mula sa naghihirap na dating tree farmers. At dahil baon sa utang sa ka cash advance sa mga illegal logging financers para ibili ng bigas, canned goods for food consumptions while cutting forest trees, they ended up in debts all their lives dahil sa gastos ng pagkain pa lang ubos na ang kita mula sa pamumutol ng kahoy” Miranda told selected newsmen in an interview.


            Miranda admitted that in his nearly five months of surveillance works of the insides and outs of illegal logging and illegal mining activities in Caraga region, he discovered the ones who only benefited in the trade were the middlemen who deal with tree farmers or wood cutters, alleged corrupt DENR and law enforcers which includes highway and LTO patrol groups.


            “Unless these corrupt government personnel are punished or put behind bars   government cannot stop illegal logging and mining since these were the only source of livelihood of many people in Caraga region” Miranda added.


            Miranda added that what is needed is comprehensive and strict implementation of environmental laws “meaning DENR must be transparent, pro-active in implementing existing forest and environmental laws while looking for alternative livelihood for the people.


            Miranda claimed illegal logging and mining has been with Caraga region for many years or even decades and many anti-illegal logging and mining campaign had passed but still the vicious cycle in forest denudation or deforestation kept coming back again and again.


            “lllegal logging and illegal mining is a multi-million if not billion peso industry. What is painful is no single centavo going to cash strapped Philippine Government coffers due corruption" Miranda quips

"Illegal logging and mining already made some shrewd wood traders millionaires if not billionaires which became politicians later elected as Barangay Captains and Mayors even Governors  courtesy of countless trees cut and dug up mineral ores in already fastly denuding Caraga’s forest”Miranda added.


            Total log ban that easy and fast without providing immediate livelihood will hunger many tree farmers and their immediate families and dependents, Miranda continued. 


            “Let us all put our house in order first, let us first offer alternative livelihood the soonest. Confiscating and confiscating illegally cut logs on daily basis will not help solved, what we needed is preventing people right in the forest to cut forest trees”. Miranda added.


            Miranda admitted the task force alone can’t help solved the unabated animosities of forest destruction scheme unless people can see heads will roll at concerned government agencies who are supposed to protect environment.


            DENR Caraga regional director Leonardo Sebaluca in a mobile phone interview for his part told PNA that  any investigation and lifestyle check to all key DENR officials in the region are most welcomed. (PNA/Ben Serrano)


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