Measure to ban pine tree resin extraction in Bukidnon hurdles 2nd reading

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 March)  – The Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved on second reading last Monday a proposed ordinance banning the extraction of pine tree resins in the province.

The measure was proposed after the provincial Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) apprehended in January about 500 sacks of such product from a Chinese contractor of the state-owned Bukidnon Forest, Inc. (BFI).

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr, the bill’s author, told MindaNews they approved the proposed ordinance after the provincial board, sitting as a Committee of the Whole, conducted a public hearing on March 18.

BFI representatives failed to attend the hearing as top officials have a prior official travel schedule to Luzon.

Vilma Lorca, BFI finance and administrative officer, said in her letter to the provincial board that the extraction contract with Luda Chemicals Inc. (LCI) had the approval of the BFI board.

Lorca added that the “matter should only be dealt with the BFI top management at the DENR Central office.”

Ernesto Adobo Jr,, DENR undersecretary for staff bureaus, is the president of BFI, which is a project of the DENR’s Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC).

Beltran said he proposed the ordinance to end the extraction of pine tree resin within the 38,000-hectare Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) area of BFI due to expire in 2016.

Last January 30, DENR-Bukidnon seized about 500 sacks of pine tree resins due to lack of an extraction permit.

The provincial board earlier passed a resolution, also authored by Beltran, urging President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to cancel the BFI and LCI contract, and for him to cancel BFI’s IFMA.

The body suggested that the BFI area be used for the national government’s National Greening Program.

Beltran said the proposed ordinance seeks to end resin extraction activities anywhere in the province, and not just in the area of BFI.

The bill has to hurdle third reading, transmitted to the executive department for signing or veto, before it will become an ordinance.

Under the proposed ordinance, violators would face six years imprisonment or a fine of P5,000, or both.

Beltran cited in his proposed ordinance studies saying that extraction could cause “high rate and scope of forest fires because the resin would accordingly leak out to the base of the pine tree and the accumulated deposits have been proven to be combustible such that a grass burn could quickly ignite a tree and swiftly spread to other trees.”

Dr. Felix Mirasol, DENR-Bukidnon chief, said in an earlier interview that despite being asked to submit requirements for a permit to extract, BFI had refused and continued to extract and transport resins.

In his notes furnished to this reporter, Mirasol expressed fears they would be accused of being “remiss of our function” due to the continued resin extraction.

Mirasol said they tried to stop the extraction of pine tree resins because it is not part of the annual operation plan of BFI in 2012, and that they have no extraction permit.

BFI applied for a permit only last month, he said, adding that DENR-Bukidnon has started the checking process with the inventory of the pine trees where they tapped the resins.

In a meeting on February 13, Belino Epie, of the environmental desk of the Diocese of Malaybalay, asked the DENR to take action on the seized 500 sacks of pine tree resins and not just discuss the need for BFI to secure an extraction permit. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)