BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/ 25 September)—The newly appointed regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Caraga Region has expressed disappointment over the lack of conviction among illegal logging operators amidst the thousands of illegally-cut logs and sawn lumber confiscated in the area since 2010.
“We’ve been boasting millions of board feet, hundreds and thousands of logs in inches, but not a single conviction here in Caraga. These illegal operators are becoming more confident in committing this crime because they feel that they can get away with it. If this remains, Caraga has no future,” DENR Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza said in an interview.
Mendoza, the first DENR director in the region who is an assistant secretary, stressed the need for different government agencies and stakeholders to work together to bring these violators behind bars.
“Criminals should be convicted and should not be set free. [At least] 20 of our people have already died in carrying out their mandated task, but not a single conviction. We [need] to bring to justice those who have violated our laws,” Mendoza said.
He vowed to go after the big financiers.
“The system has been so well-entrenched; they already know how to cover their tracks. We really need to have trained investigators, which is really the challenge for the DENR,” Mendoza said.
He appealed for help from concerned government agencies, like the National Bureau of Investigation, noting that the DENR cannot do it alone.
Retired Major General Renato Miranda, of the presidential Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF), during his visit last week in Butuan City, gave an update on the nationwide campaign against illegal logging. In the past 18 months, P750 million worth of timber and logs, consisting of some 21 million board feet, has been confiscated along with 218 trucks, he said.
Miranda added that 670 cases have been filed already but there are only 97 convictions so far across the country.
“We acknowledge that our weakness is on filing the case, the task force is after all just a coordinating body,” he said.
“Our Philippine National Police and local government units must actively participate in the anti-illegal logging campaign. By working hand in hand with other government agencies, we hope to have more success in our campaign,” Mendoza added. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)