GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 December) – The National Anti-illegal Logging Task Force (NAILTF) has cleared Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region from among the areas in the country with existing illegal logging hotspots.
Dr. Noel Dungca, Forest Resources Development Division head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 12, said such development was based on the yearend report released last week by the NAILTF during a conference in Clark, Pampanga.
“This is a major accomplishment for the region in terms of forest protection and it was acknowledged by no less than the President (Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III) and DENR Secretary (Ramon) Paje,” he said in a radio interview.
Dungca said the report cited that illegal logging activities in the region have continued to slow down due to the continuing intensified enforcement of the provisions of Executive Order (EO) No. 23 issued by the President that halted all authorized logging operations in natural forests nationwide.
Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
Since last year, the DENR and local government units in the region have stepped up their crackdown against illegal logging activities as well as forest poaching.
Among the areas covered by the operations were parts of Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu town, the Mt. Matutum area in South Cotabato, and Maitum town in Sarangani.
During the first half of the year, authorities seized some 60,142 board feet (bd. ft.) of illegal logs, lumber flitches and other related items in various parts of the region.
Portions of the haul, which was valued at a total of P1.28 million, were reportedly sourced from protected areas in the region.
The biggest seizure was recorded last May 4 in Sitio Labudog, Upo in Maitum town in Sarangani province that involved 1,286 pieces or equivalent to 20,316 bd. ft. of lauan and yakal lumber and flitches.
Citing the NAILTF report, Dungca said the remaining illegal logging hotspots in Mindanao are presently concentrated in the eastern regions, specifically in portions of Caraga and the Davao Region.
“But from the previous 28 hotspots, it’s now down to 11. This only means that our efforts against illegal logging are quite effective,” he said.
Despite the region’s removal from the list of areas with illegal logging hotspots, the official said they will continue to strengthen their forest protection programs to ensure that the problem would be totally eliminated.
“We’ll be launching more intensified forest protection activities in 2013,” Dungca said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)