Thousands of board feet of Lauan lumber seized in Butuan raid

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) —  Authorities here discovered at least 20,000 board feet of Lauan lumber and thousands more of Lauan flitches hidden underneath waste lumber during a raid Tuesday afternoon  at a warehouse of a suspected illegal logger in Barangay Baan.

The raid, done after some two weeks of surveillance, was headed by members of the Anti-illegal logging Task Force (AILTF) with personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Butuan City Police Office (BCPO).

Louie Ceniza, Intelligence Officer of the AILTF revealed that they had been keeping close watch on the warehouse for more than two weeks.

“Last September 24, we went inside the warehouse, secretly took some photos which we presented to the judge when we applied for a search warrant. We also confirmed beforehand that the warehouse did not have a permit from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to stock lumber or as a wood processing plant,” Ceniza said.

At least 14 personnel of the city police made up of two teams headed by city police director Senior Supt. Nerio Bermudo immediately secured the perimeter of the warehouse before negotiating to get inside the warehouse.

“What we are doing is in support of the campaign against illegal logging. Our mandate is to support the functions of DENR and the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force,” Bermudo said, adding that since September 24, “we have secured the place to ensure that the logs inside will not be transported out.”

Members of the Butuan City Police Office (BCPO) wait outside the gate of Datu Kalinga Alternative Energy Corporation warehouse, with a DENR boom truck before entering the compound in Barangay Baan at around 5 p.m.Tuesday, September 25.MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

The warehouse is registered under the Datu Kalinga Alternative Energy Corporation owned by Roland Seblario, also referred to as “Jhero King.”  Seblario, who had earlier been implicated in  illegal logging activities in Surigao del Sur, said he would cooperate with authorities but denied his lumber and flitches are illegally sourced.

A member of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force tries to clear the waste lumber to reveal the large Lauan lumber hidden underneath. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

“What they are doing is fine with me since it is their prerogative; I have nothing to hide from the authorities. The truth will come out after I present my (legal documents).  They came here yesterday and I welcomed them properly. Today I just did not expect that they have a search warrant with them,” said Seblario.

Later in the evening, Seblario was invited to the BCPO to answer questions while the DENR prepared the cases to be filed against him.

Lauan lumber loaded to a boom truck to serve as evidence as DENR prepares a case to be filed against Roland Seblario or “Jhero King,” owner of the warehouse. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

The Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force was created by Executive Order 23 which declared a ban on  the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests nationwide on Februray 1, 2011.

Caraga region, comprising the two Agusans and two Surigaos and the cities of Butuan, Cabadbaran, Surigao, Tandag, Bislig and Bayugan,  has been described by AILTF Executive Director retired Marine General Renato Miranda as “the center of gravity” in illegal logging operations.

The region is the country’s largest wood producer, accounting for at least 60% of the country’s wood supply. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)