‘Hot’ lumber seized from vessel in Sarangani Bay

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 February) — Navy personnel seized around 30,000 board feet of alleged illegally-cut lumber while being transported aboard a light cargo vessel off  Sarangani Bay on Monday, an official said.

Navy Lt. Felixberto Iral Jr., commander of the Philippine Navy’s BRP Teotimo Figuracion (Patrol Gunboat 389), said Tuesday they found the illegal lumber shipment after stopping cargo boat M/V Sahani near the coasts of Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat.

He said the vessel, which was loaded with freshly-cut lumber, was reportedly en route then to Cotabato City.

“The crew members failed to present any permit or document regarding the shipment so we immediately confiscated them,” Iral said in an interview over a local television station.

The official said they were conducting routine security patrol near the vicinity of the coastal village of Milbuk in Palimbang town when they spotted a speeding vessel that appeared to be carrying concealed cargo.

He said the boat initially tried to evade apprehension but was later forced to stop after the BRP Teotimo Figuracion caught up with it.

“When we closed in on the boat, it was clearly visible that the crew members were hiding something inside,” Iral said.

During inspection, he said the boat’s skipper, who was identified as Canapia Kamad, supposedly admitted that the lumber shipment was undocumented and they have not secured any permit to transport them.

Kamad claimed that his boat was just commissioned by a trader from Palimbang town to transport the lumber cuts to Cotabato City, he said.

Iral said Kamad also admitted that his boat had made several shipments in the past using the same route.

The official said the seized cargo vessel and lumber shipment are presently under the custody of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Glan town.

Elvira Lumayag, officer-in-charge of Cenro-Glan, said their personnel are currently scaling and determining the market value of the seized lumber, a mixture of red and white Lauan species based on their initial assessment.

“They were from naturally-grown indigenous tree species and the cutting of these trees is strictly prohibited,” she said.

Lumayag said they were still determining the exact area where the seized lumber were sourced but noted that such tree species were known to have thrived in forestlands near the coastal municipalities of Sultan Kudarat province and the neighboring areas.

The official said they will later turnover the seized shipment to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of Sultan Kudarat province for proper action.

But she noted that based on their evaluation on the case, the cargo vessel’s skipper and crew could face illegal logging and qualified theft charges over the recovered lumber shipment. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)