Army officer says Aurora task force “passive” in campaign vs illegal logging

By Jason de Asis


BALER, Aurora, November 19, 2010–The members of the provincial government-led task force which is spearheading the campaign against illegal logging are “passive” in the drive against tree-cutting and forest smuggling in the province.


This was according to Army Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia, battalion commander of the 48th Infantry Battalion who said this seeming passiveness among members of Task Force Sagip Kalikasan explains why they are encountering problems in the campaign.


Decapia told a meeting of the task force presided over by Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo that task force members are so preoccupied with checkpoints, waiting for contraband vehicles to pass through these checkpoints instead of conducting patrol operations.


“You have to attack the illegal loggers from the source. But everybody is so passive, they are there in the checkpoints waiting for trucks to pass,” he said.


He said what must be done is for task force members to conduct a massive information drive in the barangays on the ills of illegal logging instead of sitting idly in the checkpoints.


Angara-Castillo agreed and said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the lead agency when it comes to forest protection, should initiate the information drive. She directed the three community environment and natural resources offices to formulate an information dissemination strategy by tapping the radio and print media and produce leaflets to be distributed in the grassroots level.


During the meeting,Angara-Castillo also asked the DENR and the Philippine National Police to closely coordinate in the filing of cases against illegal loggers after a check on the status of cases showed many of these cases are just being dismissed by the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for lack of coordination between the DENR and the police.


Angara-Castillo lamented that the Department of Justice always come out with questionable decisions on cases of violations of Presidential Decree 705, also known as the Forestry Laws, Rules and Regulations. In most instances, she said, the prosecutor orders the release of the conveyances used in the transport of illegal logs to their owners allegedly because the owners knew nothing about the operations of the vehicles.


“That’s not true,” she said, adding she found it impossible for drivers of vehicles to transport contraband forest products without the knowledge of the owners of the vehicles they were using. She said once the vehicle used was released, its owner will just hire another driver so the illegal transport can be done again.


She said that they will question the recent decisions of the DOJ with regards to the release of vehicles.


Benjamin Miña, DENR provincial environment and natural resources officer, said forfeiture proceedings should be immediately conducted against the impounded vehicle to prevent its release. (Jason de Asis)