Villar calls to stop illegal loggers in Cagayan and Isabela

By Jason de Asis 


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 6, 2010-Senator Manny Villar calls to stop the operation of logging in the Sierra Madre mountains in the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela which are suffering heavy floods and landslide brought by heavy rains.


“The series of landslides and floods which came from the mountains in the two (2) provinces reflect the abuses of the people due to all forms of loggings along the sierra madre pointing out that if illegal logging will continue more threats to the lives of the villagers might come,” he said.


The Senator urged the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to conduct investigation in the destruction of the country’s forest cover.


“There is an urgent need to investigate why the DENR and local officials who are mandated by the Local Government to protect the environment do not see anything illegal here (logging),” he said.

Villar stressed that the Sierra Madre is considered as the Philippines critical conservation priority area because of the abuses of the miners, loggers and other companies which is at the back of building structures of dams and garbage disposals, adding that there are legal loggers in the country but some of them violates the law.


The Senator cited the confiscated lumber in the towns of Ilagan and San Mariano and the present active saw mills which operations are located near the river of Agos in Magsaysay town.


Meanwhile, Villar filed a Senate Resolution No. 240 urging the Environment Committee and the Committee on Climate Change to further investigate the reported illegal logging and timber poucher in the Umiray River in the midst of Quezon and Aurora provinces.


“The Sierra Madre is important in the livelihood and lives of villagers in Luzon because it protects and shields almost 26 typhoons coming in the country every year,” he said, stressing that the situation on the destruction of the forests in the Sierra Madre has big effect in the climate change especially those who live in the mountains slopes.


The Sierra Madre ranges 500 kilometers where it covers 1.4 million hectares in Luzon starting from the provinces of Cagayan to Quezon. Villagers who live on the place are 10 million Filipinos including the country’s 11 tribes like 500 Dumagats, Kalingas, Gaddang and Bugkalot.


“Sierra Madre Mountain represents the 50% remaining forest covers in the Philippines,” he concluded. (Jason de Asis)

Sen. Recto questioned today the timing of toll hike petition of BCDA for SCTex

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila November 6, 2010-While the expansive toll road is being turned over to a private concessionaire, Sen. Ralph G. Recto today questioned the timing of the toll hike petition of Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTex).


The Senator asked, “Is the promise of a higher toll fee a welcome gift for the private operator?” adding that it is untimely wherein the BCDA is seeking a toll fee hike while it is in the middle of privatizing the operation and maintenance of SCTex.


He said the bases authority might have its priority misplaced by seeking a toll fee increase with the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), which will adversely affect the motorists who are still getting acquainted with the world-class features of SCTex.


Recto opined that instead of cajoling the new private operator to maintain present toll prices while in the months of transition, BCDA made sure that the private concessionaire will have an instant bonanza once they get onboard.


BCDA must first ensure that it will be leaving the SCTex under the care of a new manager that would take care of the clients and not be instrumental in taking advantage of them and urged the TRB to conscientiously study the toll hike petition, and better yet, reserve the pleasure of applying for a toll hike to the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp (MPTC) for being the new operator.


“The MPTC should apply for an increase in the future, adding that the TRB may even provide some triggers such as a toll hike could only be considered once an ideal number of users is reached or certain segment expansions are met,” he said.


SCTex currently caters to only 24,000 motorists daily. 


Recto said that once the toll hike petition is approved, motorists using North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and SCTEx would be whipped with a double whammy since the same private operator is also seeking approval to increase tolls at NLEX by 12 percent.


BCDA’s toll hike petition for SCTex would be higher by 12 percent or possibly an additional P3 to P4 per kilometer.


The MPTC won the 25-year concession contract from BCDA to operate and maintain the 93.77-kilometer SCTex in exchange for P64.4 billion in concession fees during the duration of the contract. (Jason de Asis)