Groups laud Robredo, Amante for seizure of illegal logs in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/14 June) — Environment organizations and the academe lauded the decision of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to push for the relief and investigation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) personnel in Caraga Region after the city government seized illegal logs coming from Agusan del Sur.

The same groups also commended City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. for his role in the seizure of the illegal logs on June 3.

Robredo had requested the DENR to investigate its personnel in Caraga Region for failing to intercept the large volume of logs smuggled from Agusan del Sur to this city through the Agusan River.

In a press conference at the city hall on Monday, he said he also asked DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to remove the agency’s monitoring station personnel in areas where the logs passed through for “neglect of duty.”

Investigation showed that the logs came from the town of La Paz, Agusan del Sur.

DENR has monitoring stations in the towns of Loreto, Talacogon, and Esperanza, also in Agusan del Sur, and in Las Nieves town in Agusan del Norte, areas where the logs passed through before heading to Butuan.

Amante led the confiscation of the logs initially thought to number 2,400. The count increased to 4,236 logs as authorities discovered hundreds more hidden underneath the water by tying them to the ones on the surface.

The logs were valued at P4 million.

Robredo also earned praise for his decision dumping the claims of the Lumads from Agusan del Sur that they had a right to the logs since those were cut in their ancestral domain.

He said President Aquino’s order imposing a logging moratorium was non-negotiable and no one was exempted from it.

“We salute the action initiated by the LGU (local government unit) in spearheading in the confiscation of the illegal logs. We hope that the DILG and the LGU’s aggressive actions will continue and that nothing will hamper the drive against these illegal loggers operating here and other parts of Caraga region,” said Nokie Calunsag, Green Mindanao campaign officer.

Calunsag said the incident Butuan showed but a small portion of the illegal logging problem in the region, adding local officials should also see what’s happening in small towns like in Surigao del Sur where cutting of logs was reportedly rampant.

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said Robredo’s decision and Amante’s action should be replicated in other parts of the region and all over the country.

LRC officer Carl Cesar Rebuta said the volume of the logs confiscated showed that massive forest destruction was going on.

He added the incident was nothing new and suggested poor forest management by the DENR.

A Catholic-run local university also expressed appreciation for the actions taken by the LGU, said that mayor Amante should be commended for taking the initiative in enforcing the law.

“Actions such as this should be done with regularity to protect the environment by deterring the cutting of trees. Imagine the area that was deforested to produce 4000 plus pieces of logs. It would take a long time and a lot of resources to rehabilitate the area. Cases should be filed in court against those who cut the trees and those in government who allowed the logs to pass through their stations/ check points,” said Fr. John Young, president of Father Saturnino Urios University.

Individuals here and abroad have posted their comments on the actions taken by Robredo and Amante in social networking sites. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)