Seized logs don’t rot in Tagum; they turn into school chairs

TAGUM CITY (MindaNews/13 November) – While other cities and provinces are leaving confiscated logs to rot, the city government of Tagum has been turning these materials into something useful: school chairs.

FINISHING TOUCHES. A worker puts finishing touches on a school chair at the Tagum City Motorpool. The city government has made school chairs from seized illegal lumber instead of leaving them to rot. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More
FINISHING TOUCHES. A worker puts finishing touches on a school chair at the Tagum City Motorpool. The city government has made school chairs from seized illegal lumber instead of leaving them to rot. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More

Under the Care for School Chairs Program, which started in August 2011, the city government has been fabricating many school chairs out of the premium species of confiscated lumbers such as lauan and yakal.

In an interview, Mayor Rey Uy said it is his passion to prioritize the education program of the city government, and making good chairs is his own way of doing it.

“We always preach quality education, we paint on the roof or paint on the walls. We have capable teachers. But the problem is the school facilities. If their chairs are swinging, nails are protruding or there is nothing to write on,” Uy pointed out.

The mayor said President Aquino III’s Executive Order No. 23 imposing a total log ban in the entire country has helped as it led to an intensified campaign against illegal logging resulting in the confiscation of illegal logs.
He recalled one instance when he saw on TV sometime in March 2011 that there were confiscated logs in Laac town, Compostela Valley coming from Loreto town, Agusan del Sur.

He said he immediately called up Gov. Arturo Uy, his elder brother, and asked the latter to give him the logs so these can be made into chairs.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order to turn over the logs to the city government.

Fabricating since 2005

Roderick Ragot, head of the fabrication section of the Motorpool Division, said they have been fabricating school chairs since 2005 but those were made of steel frame and wooden planks.

Ragot said the city government allocates funds for the fabrication of school chairs and distributes them to public schools within the city.

“In every school where we deliver the chairs, we take out all their old and damaged chairs and bring them here in the fabrication area and recycle the still usable parts, especially the durable wood,” he explained.

He said the city government has invested in the facilities for mass production of not just school chairs but also office furniture like rostrums, desks, tables and cabinets.

The fabrication area is within the motorpool compound in Barangay Tipas. Hundreds of seized logs were still piled up beside the fabrication area and waiting to be sliced into smaller pieces.

Last month, the city government of Davao  turned over 39,144 board feet of lauan lumber .The hot lumber, stored in 18 container vans and with an estimated value of P4.3 million, was seized by operatives of the DENR – National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force and National Bureau of Investigation on July 16.
Donations and volunteer work

Ragot said it’s not just their regular workers who are involved in making the chairs. He said fraternities, business groups, clubs and ordinary citizens are volunteering their services.

“They just come here, we provide the tools and they can work especially on weekends because our regular workers are also not around,” he said.

Uy said each chair would cost around P450 and need an average of 10 board feet.
“So far, the PAGCOR has donated funds worth P2.7 million while my friends donated the paint. I’m not ashamed to ask from my friends,” the mayor said.


Chairs are for free

Uy said they are giving the school chairs to different schools even outside the city for free.  He added they have even donated the chairs to schools in Batangas, Metro Manila and Tarlac.


As of October 16, at least 78,000 chairs have been delivered to different schools in Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon.

But what he could not forget, he said, were the chairs that were given to a school in a marshy village in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

“What makes it notable was that it was a military officer who requested me that he needed chairs for a school near the Liguasan marsh. I could not remember his name but imagine a military man who really cares for education. A military man at that, an officer of the Special Forces,” Uy recalled.

He added that when he saw the pictures he really felt pity for the children because they had no chairs. “I was told that the flood destroyed their chairs. So they were sitting on the floor, I really pity them.”

Asked how the other schools may avail of the free chairs, Uy replied: “Maski text lang nila ko.  That’s why I’m always saying that for as long as there are logs, we are very much willing to give chairs. (Keith Bacongco/Mindanews)