GenSan-bound P500,000 worth of logs from Basilan seized

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 Sept) – Naval personnel have seized an estimated P500,000 worth of alleged misdeclared and illegally-cut logs while being delivered to this city aboard a cargo vessel from Basilan province.

Cmdr. Lued Lincuna, commander of Philippine Navy patrol gun boat 114 BRP Salvador Abcede, said they intercepted the logs aboard M/V Somahi while it was about to enter Sarangani Bay early Wednesday.

Lincuna said the vessel’s officers and crew presented documents indicating that the shipment was composed of 2,963 round poles and flitches of Mahogany when it was accosted near Tampat Point off the coasts of Maasim town in Sarangani province.

But he said they failed to show a log sales invoice, log supply contract, forest officer’s markings hatchet and that the tally sheet of the shipment were supposedly questionable.

“We asked them to present some required documents for the transport of the logs and we found out that they did not comply with some of them,” Lincuna said.

The official said they also stopped the shipment due to a tip that the vessel was carrying some premium logs aside from the listed items.

“We were actually monitoring this shipment since we received a tip last Tuesday that a vessel carrying illegally-cut logs from Basilan is on its way here,” he said.

The official said they immediately turned over the illegal cargo to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) personnel based in Glan, Sarangani for their proper inventory and disposal.

Based on documents presented by the vessel’s crew, the illegally-cut logs only comprised of Mahogany poles and flitches.

The shipment’s owner was listed as a certain Hadji Mashur Ismael of Isabela City in Basilan.

It was scheduled for delivery this week to Patwood Processing Plant Inc., a wood processing plant based in Barangay San Isidro here.

Belmo Biazon, M/V Somahi captain, told reporters that they were only carrying Mahogany poles and flitches as well as Mahogany lumber.

“We’re not carrying any illegally-cut logs or endangered tree species,” he said. Elvira Lumayag, officer-in-charge of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Glan, Sarangani, said the shipment’s documents showed that it was sourced from titled lands in Basilan.

She said CENRO-West chief Ben Acana issued a certification noting that the shipment was in proper order.

“But we will check whether the documents presented coincide with the actual inventory of the shipment in terms of weight and composition,” Lumayag said.

She said they will immediately seek the confiscation of the shipment should there be discrepancies found during the inventory.

Col. Joselito Kakilala, Joint Task Force (JTF) GenSan chief, said they will assist in the inventory that will be conducted by CENRO.

“We will also check whether there are other tree species other than Mahogany that was included in the shipment,” he said.

In February last year, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III issued Executive Order (EO) 23 declaring an indefinite logging ban all over the country.

EO 23 also provided for the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force headed by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje.

The order was issued in light of widespread flooding and landslides in various parts of the country, which the national government blamed on the rampant illegal logging activities. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)