New Davao-Bukidnon road takes its toll in Bukidnon forests

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/6 July) – Development has its costs and in the case of the P3.64-billion Kapalong-Talaingod-Valencia  Bukidnon road, it is taking its toll in Bukidnon’s remaining forests.

Agustilo Obsioma, Bukidnon’s provincial environmental and natural resources officer, said that the 91-kilometer road has provided longer
farm-to-market road between Davao del Norte and Bukidnon but it has also triggered the cutting of naturally grown trees in San Fernando
town, along Bukidnon’s forest frontier.

“Accessibility is taking its toll. The forests are put to risk with the highway,” he told MindaNews via telephone.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported this week the apprehension of a total of 325 pieces of abandoned lumber from naturally grown trees, mostly Philippine mahogany species, in three sitios in Barangay Kalagangan, San Fernando, Bukidnon.

The logs, estimated at 41 cubic meters, were taken from Sitio Balakayo (10.09 cu.m.), Sitio Nabunturan (26.cu.m.), and Sitio Misalugpok.

Obsioma said the logs, reported to be bound for Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte, are now under the custody of the local government of
San Fernando, who he said worked with the DENR in the apprehension operation.

He said they are preparing to recommend to the DENR regional director Maximo Dichoso the confiscation of the logs in favor of the
government.

Obsioma admitted it was not easy for DENR to watch the remote area.

“DENR alone cannot do it,” he said.

The DENR regional offices in Northern and Southern Mindanao, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the local government units, are forging a memorandum of agreement to monitor and protect the area, Obsioma said.

He said they would plan to put up checkpoints on both sides.

Remegio Timoteo, forest management service chief of Malaybalay’s community environment and natural resources office (CENRO), said maybe
it is really the highway that triggered it.

It is CENRO-Malaybalay’s biggest apprehension in 10 years, he said.

“This is a big issue here in Bukidnon where a logging moratorium has been declared,” said Timoteo. He added that only two CENRO personnel
do monitoring and surveillance work in the area with a standby team to investigate in case of reports.

Fr. Jonathan Tianero, head of the environment desk of the Diocese of Malaybalay, welcomed the DENR’s plan to be more visible in the area.

He said the Diocese has anticipated that the road project will affect the protection of the last remaining forests in the area. But it was too late. They just made noise to block a similar project connecting Bukidnon to Agusan del Sur cutting across a watershed area.

He admitted that guarding the area from illegal loggers is indeed a challenge for the government because of the security problem,
particularly the communist insurgency that thrives in between Bukidnon and Davao del Norte.

But he said it is also a challenge for the communist rebels.

“It is an opportune time for them to prove their real love for the country. If it is true that they are not bandits then they must help protect the forest,” Tianero told MindaNews Tuesday.

A report from the field operation team that caused the apprehension cited that only logs from Sitio Balakayo were verified to be within
the Bukidnon area of responsibility. The logs from the two other areas are at least 500 meters away from the boundary; it is in the Davao del
Norte side.

The two areas are within a contested area between the two provinces where rampant illegal loggings have been observed, according to the
June 29 official written report of the Forest Management Service in San Fernando.

“Both the government and the rebels must show they are both sincere in fighting illegal loggers and in protecting our forests,” Tianero said.

He said Bukidnon cannot afford to lose trees from either legal of illegal loggers in a time of climate change. (Walter I. Balane /MindaNews)

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