Fisherfolk urges DENR to probe military involvement in large-scale logging

THE LEFT-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday advised Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Ramon Paje to investigate the possible involvement of military personnel in large-scale logging all over the country.

Instead of involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the campaign against illegal loggers, Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said Secretary Paje is turning a blind eye on long-running reality that a big number of crooks in the AFP serve as protectors of big time logging syndicates in the country.

Hicap, also the vice chairperson of Anakpawis party list opposed the suggestion of the DENR chief to deploy the military in the campaign against illegal loggers, noting the increasing danger to forest rangers. Since 2010, a total of 20 forest rangers have been killed in the line of duty.

“What if the people responsible for the death of 20 forest rangers are the military themselves who are enrolled in the payroll of big time logging syndicates in the country? Secretary Paje is not using his coconut. We are dealing here with AFP which is noted for extrajudicial killing, gross violations of human rights, protector of big business and triple platinum crimes of corruption,” the Pamalakaya leader noted.

Secretary Paje had asked defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin to consider the fight against illegal loggers as a military offensive.  “We are requesting that illegal logging operations in Davao and Caraga regions should now be considered military operations because we believe it’s not just an issue of illegal logging,” Paje said during a press briefing held last week.

The DENR secretary admitted that he personally brought the proposal to Gazmin on the sidelines of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to provide military support to deputized forest enforcers, whose job includes monitoring illegal logging activities.

Paje asserted that the campaign against illegal loggers should be dealt with military solution instead of regulation. He said the AFP although a member of the anti-illegal logging task force is not the lead agency to frustrate illegal logging activities.

But Pamalakaya chided DENR over its proposal. ‘To be exact, straight and specific the DENR and the military have been conniving with large-scale logging companies in denuding our forest cover over the last three to four decades. They should be blamed for the rapacious plunder of our forest reserves over the last thirty to forty years. It is so disgusting to hear DENR and the AFP professing themselves as the protector of the people’s environment while the truth is they should be held accountable for the rapid denudation of Philippine of forests”, the group said.

The DENR said it made huge strides in reducing the number of illegal logging “hot spots” in the country, from a high of 197 sites to just 28, mostly concentrated in the Caraga and Davao regions.

Pamalakaya said President Aquino’s total log ban under Presidential Executive Order No. 23, which provides for “a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests of the entire country was just a praise release.

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