KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/12 April) – Police arrested 22 persons who were allegedly caught cutting down trees inside the compound of the Central Mindanao Agriculture Research Center (Cemiarc) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Barangay Amas here, around 3 p.m., on Monday, police reports said.
Acting on a report from an informant, Cemiarc employees told police that some gmelina trees planted in the early ‘90s by residents at the 448-ha compound were cut down by men coming from the northwest portion of North Cotabato led by Datu Dan Kabuat, of Barangay Dalapitan in Matalam.
Ed Solomon, Cemiarc provincial head, said the suspects arrived in the area on Saturday when they (DA employees) were too busy preparing for the visit of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
“We were told these individuals entered in an open area along the boundary of the barangays of Valdevieso in Matalam town and Amas in Kidapawan City,” said Solomon.
The police raid yielded lumber of different sizes and three chainsaws.
Police said Kabuat and his group could not present documents to prove the cutting was legal.
Kabuat claimed the provincial government had authorized them to cut down trees so that they could plant high-value crops, including African oil palm, banana, and rubber.
He said their permit was issued in 2007 by then governor Jesus Sacdalan, although he failed to show documents to the police.
Cotabato Governor Lala Talinio-Mendoza did not believe Kabuat.
“All the more the cutting of trees should be prohibited in a government lot like Cemiarc. I could not remember having given these people a permit or a go signal to cut down trees inside Cemiarc,” said Mendoza.
She ordered the police to further investigate the case and file the appropriate charges against Kabuat and his men.
The Cemiarc, originally under the Bureau of Plant Industry, is the agriculture research arm of the DA in Southwestern Mindanao.
It is planted to several fruit-bearing trees, including mango, durian, banana, lanzones, and rambutan, as well as corn, rice, and vegetables. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)