DENR-Caraga to use drones in campaign vs. illegal logging

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Caraga Region is going hi-tech in its campaign against illegal logging.

It wants to use unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in an effort to closely monitor the activities and movement of timber-poaching operations in the remote mountain areas in the region.

Nonito M. Tamayo, regional executive director of DENR, said that the agency is adopting the unmanned aircraft, popularly known as drone, developed by Filipino scientists and engineers.

Skyeye Inc., the operator of the UAV, gave a briefing on operating the drone to DENR officials in a move to have a better understanding and appreciation of the technology.

Tamayo told MindaNews on Monday that the DENR will have this technology by September.

He said the cost of operating the drone depends on the project. But he said that in the case of one project, flying over the area costs around half a million pesos.

Tamayo said that several attempts have been made in the past to solve illegal logging activities but little breakthrough has been achieved so far.

“We cannot afford to relax our campaign. Those timber poachers and log smugglers are always there waiting for every opportunity to break in and transport those illegal logs,” he stressed.

But the UAV, he said, will help the DENR stand in the way of the illegal loggers.

Tamayo said the UAV technology is expected to minimize the high risk of lives among DENR personnel engaged in anti-illegal logging campaign at the front lines.

Some anti-illegal logging advocates said that the planned use of the UAV is “an excellent idea.”

Emma Hotchkiss, an anti-logging and anti-mining advocate based in Surigao del Sur, said the project will make a drastic change in the fight against illegal logging.

“It’s now more difficult to hide because of the aerial pictures, and now easy to identify areas where illegal logging operations are ongoing,” she said.

The UAV could likewise help the DENR in identifying the weak areas in the reforestation activities under the National Greening Program.

Marites C. Ocampo, OIC regional executive director of Forest Management Sector Division, said she would also plan to use the photos and data taken through the video camera of the UAV in the monitoring and validation of the accomplished activities and other activities under the NGP.

“We want to know the exact situation of planted tree species of the NGP at the site designated by our PENRO and CENRO officers to guide the management in decision making process,” she said.