Butuan traders ask P-Noy to support families affected by log ban

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/4 Aug) – Businessmen in this city are urging President Benigno Aquino III  to provide financial support to families affected by the implementation of his Executive Order 23 or the total log ban in natural and residual forests, at least during the transition period.

Joseph Omar O. Andaya, president of the Butuan City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., said during the 21st Mindanao Business Conference here that the chamber will submit an open letter to the President to air their concern within the next two weeks.

He said people in Butuan City are economically affected with the total log ban, especially workers in the wood industry.

Andaya said that 4,000 families in Butuan have been affected with the folding up of companies in the wood industry.

Developing the wood industry in Mindanao was one of the issues discussed during the MinBizCon held here from Aug. 2-4.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who attended the conference, said he is in favor of the log ban but will keep an open mind.

Asked whether or not Mr. Aquino will grant the chamber’s demand, he said he does not want to preempt the President’s decision.

Andaya clarified that they are for a total log ban, but pointed out that the government’s support is needed to help the people affected. One way, he said, is increasing the amount for conditional cash transfer (CCT). CCT is under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

He said it would be better to provide the affected families with P5,000 a month for two years until they are able to find new livelihood.

But employees of companies under the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA) do not quality under the 4Ps program because they used to have salaries, according to PWPA executive director Leonardo D. Angeles.

He said since the log ban began Feb. 1 last year, at least 130,000 of the total 650,000 direct and indirect employees, or 20 percent, in the wood industry lost their jobs.

Ten out of the 46 companies in the PWPA are directly affected by the log ban, Angeles said, noting that 50 percent of its members are from Caraga region.

Angeles said PWPA is appealing for the government to strictly follow EO 23, particularly in evaluating legitimate wood industries, and provide a transition period similar to what the President provided to mining companies with EO 79.

“EO 23 has barred legitimate logging companies from bringing down from the forests their logging, road-building and transportation equipment,” he lamented.

He pointed out that because permits of wood processing mills have not been renewed, their workers had to be laid off.

“We’ve visited the President four times to appeal for evaluation and appeal for the lifting of the ban. Still, nothing happened,” Angeles told reporters.

But Assistant Secretary Marlo D. Mendoza, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said that lifting the ban will not give assurance that illegal logging will be stopped.

Mendoza said the government is currently developing a system to provide a permanent solution in combatting illegal logging because it is the lack of an effective system that this problem continues to occur.

He cited that the DENR is working on a partnership with the DSWD in prioritizing the Caraga region for CCT, and study the context of the indigenous people for an environmental cash transfer on top of health and educational cash assistance. (MindaNews)