DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 December) — OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman has ordered a stop to the cutting of trees in Lanao del Sur as well as the transport of logs and flitches pending an inventory of logging operations in the area.
Hatamans’ order was issued during a multi-agency meeting in Marawi City morning of December 24, the third day in office of the President’s officer in charge in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Hataman told a press conference in Cotabato City after assuming the post on December 22 that President Aquino’s first order to him was “Pare, ayusin mo at i-fix mo ang problema sa logging sa Lanao del Sur,” following the December 17 flashfloods that killed at least 1,000 persons and displaced some 51,000 families in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan
He said he immediately summoned Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong to Manila and that Adiong on December 21 informed him that what is operating in the province is “carabao logging.”
“Carabao logging” refers to small-scale logging using chainsaw to cut trees and the carabao to transport the logs to the roadside.
“But I want to know why, if that is just carabao logging as Gov Adiong said it is, what I want to see, is why that extent,” Hataman said, apparently referring to the estimated 6,000 logs that rolled down the mountains allegedly of Lanao del Sur, that rammed through the houses all the way to the coast of Iligan.
Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Neric Acosta described the devastation as “a tsunami in reverse, from the uplands to the coast” and “carpet of logs and debris lining the Iligan coast.”
After the meeting on December 24, Hataman told MindaNews in a telephone interview that he was disappointed to find that the ARMM’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has no complete data and cannot answer where the source of the logs is.
Malik Pangdaman, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) told MindaNews in an interview Friday afternoon that his office was still verifying if, indeed, the logs came from Kapai. Friday was six days after the killer floods struck.
Hataman asked for a historical perspective of the logging operations in the area. He said he wants a chronology of the logging operations which reportedly started in the 1940s.
“They couldn’t present a comprehensive detailed report,” an irked Hataman said, adding he gave them until Monday, December 26, to submit a “comprehensive detailed report.”
He said he also relieved PENRO Pangandaman.
Hataman has yet to name a new ARMM Environment Secretary.
Instead of creating another task force to enforce the total log ban, Hataman told MindaNews he will consult with Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, on the possibility of just expanding the mandate of the Joint AFP-PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police) anti-kidnapping “Task Force Ranao,” to include enforcement of the total log ban.
The ARMM imposed a total log ban in 2009, two years before President Aquino’s EO 23, which declared a “moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.”
The President’s EO was issued on February 1 this year.
In the ARMM, Memo Office Order 009 issued on January 13, 2009 by then ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, declared a total log ban in the region.
On March 17, 2010, then Acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong issued Memo Office Order 43, reiterating the log ban declared by Memo 009.
Rido, Logs and Flitches
Hataman said that in Saturday’s meeting, he was also informed that the police personnel and the DENR workers in the towns and province are having difficulties to enforce the log ban because they might be the subjects of a rido (clan feud).
Hataman’s predecessor, Acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong, is from Lanao del Sur.
Hataman said he would pass on to the military the task to enforce the ban given that the police cannot.
MindaNews on Friday asked Hataman through text messages what he would do about the piles of flitches of lawaan and mahogany dumped in at least 20 areas along the Cotabato City-Marawi City highway, specifically in the Lanao del Sur towns of Pualas, Bacolod Kalawi, Tugaya, Balindong and Marantao and in Marawi City.
MindaNews saw a truck loaded with flitches parked near a residence in Balindong and another truck loaded with flitches parked on the roadside in Marantao town, towards the direction of Marawi City.
Hataman, who traveled to Marawi City from Cotabato City onf Saturday meeting, said he would look into MindaNews’ report.
“I saw it na,” he texted MindaNews Saturday, referring to the logs and flitches on the roadside.
MindaNews also asked Col. Daniel Lucero, chief of the 103rd Infantry Brigade on the flitches along roadside on Friday but he told MindaNews that he passed by the Cotabato-Marawi highway last week and “mahogany yan. Planted yan, hindi covered sa log ban.”
PENRO Pangandaman told MindaNews on Friday afternoon that the fllitches were from planted species and are not covered by the ban.
A policeman in Tugaya town also claimed the flitches came from trees planted by the owners. He said he heard about the log ban declared by President Aquino but there was no instruction from their police chief to seize the flitches. MindaNews asked him where the flitches came from and his reply was, “sa bundok” (the forest).
But Hataman told MindaNews Saturday that no one could answer him if they have an inventory of how many tree plantations there are in the province. He said he asked them how they could be certain that the flitches that the owners claim to have been cut from a tree plantation or a private lot really came from there and not the forest.
He said no one could provide him an inventory, hence the order, effective immediately, to stop cutting of trees including those alleged to be coming from tree plantations and private lots, until an inventory is done.
He said permits are apparently being issued for transport of logs or flitches but this should be stopped while there is a moratorium on the cutting of trees whether in the forest or in the alleged tree farms or private lots.
He said he has asked for a listing of who owns the logs and flitches on the roadside and that these should not be moved out or transferred pending verification of their origins. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)