House to probe govt officials allegedly in cahoots with illegal loggers
A LAWMAKER urged the House of Representatives to conduct a Congressional inquiry on the unabated illegal logging activities in Mindanao allegedly involving some local officials and officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and from the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Rep. Simeon A. Datumanong (2nd District, Maguindanao) filed House Resolution 2549 calling for a legislative inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the rampant illegal logging activities in Mindanao.
Datumanong said there is a need to intensify and coordinate all government’s efforts to fight and put a stop to illegal activities in Mindanao.
The lawmaker said there is a need to impose harsher penalties on illegal loggers, as well as government officials who are in cahoots with the illegal loggers.
Datumanong said rampant illegal logging activities continue in Mindanao despite the Executive Order No. 23 issued by President Benigno Aquino III on February 1, 2012 declaring a Moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.
Proof of this, Datumanong said, is the report of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force that the 51,000-hectare Manobo Agro-forestation complex in Agusan Del Sur has become one of the areas of operations of illegal loggers and even miners.
Allegedly, Datumanong said, some officials of local government units, DENR, NCIP and PNP were involved in the illegal logging operation.
“The alleged involvement of these government officials is quite alarming because it does not only undermine but practically makes fun of our government’s efforts to stop illegal logging in Mindanao. It is not surprising that illegal loggers have been operating with impunity
in many parts of Mindanao,” Datumanong said.
“The report of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force has led to the relief of DENR officials in Regions XI and XIII, as well as officials from the PNP,” Datumanong said.
The lawmaker added that another proof of the scale of operations of these illegal loggers in Mindanao is the recent seizure by elements of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Manila North Harbor of a considerable number of “hot logs” from Davao.
He said there is also a great possibility that the large scale operations of illegal loggers in Regions XI and XII are replicated in other regions in Mindanao, particularly in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where there is a weak presence of law enforcers.
Datumanong said Maguindanao province is continuously suffering from floods and landslides because of the unabated logging activities in mountain areas.
“These illegal activities take a heavy toll on the people’s personal safety and means of livelihood,” Datumanong said.