COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/6 December)—A watchdog in North Cotabato is planning to ask the United Nations environmental desk to conduct an independent investigation on the involvement of some personnel of the 6th Infantry Division (ID) in alleged illegal logging activity in the area.
Already, the Watchful Advocates for Transparent, Clean and Honest Governance in North Cotabato (WATCH Cotabato) has filed a separate complaint with Malacanang to investigate the incident.
“This is a very shameful and sad incident. Imagine, those who we expect to protect our environment are the ones destroying it. We cannot trust the investigation being conducted by the 6th Infantry Division. We are afraid of the possible whitewash if they investigate themselves,” Abner Francisco, WATCH president, said in a statement.
Francisco, who is also a local radio commentator, said they wanted “to save the remaining forest covers of the province.”
Last November 20, police apprehended a military truck belonging to the 6th ID loaded with an estimated 2,000 board feet of red and white Lauan flitches.
A man sits on the Lauan slabs seized in Alamada, North Cotabato from a military truck. MindaNews contributed photo
Unting Guiabel, an Army personnel, was wounded when policemen fired on the military truck under the supervision of Captain Sarcon Angue, reports said.
There was no report of any arrest but the seized lumbers were brought to the Alamada police station and later turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Midsayap town.
Citing an unnamed source, WATCH Cotabato said that a total of 180 tablons or flitches were transported from Campo 10 in Barangay Rangayen in Alamada to a sawmill in nearby Midsayap town.
The first three batches happened in the first week of November using M-35 or six-by-six military trucks, it said. The intercepted transport was the fourth attempt.
WATCH Cotabato said the forest from where the trees were cut is a protected watershed area.
Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado Jr., a renowned peace advocate and environmentalist, urged Alamada residents to demand a probe on illegal logging activity, which shall be conducted by independent cause-oriented groups, DENR and the LGUs in North Cotabato.
“This is a very serious concern as it involves the [6th Infantry] Division. Those trucks won’t be used without the blessings from higher-ups,” he said in his Facebook account.
Ambulo Batugan, DENR-Midsayap district officer, said the logs were cut illegally.
Owing to the controversy, a special Army Board of Inquiry arrived today (Friday) to conduct further investigation, according to Col. Dickson Hermoso, Inspector General and spokesperson of the 6th ID.
“We will assure they will answer to this mess,” he said over the phone, noting the involved personnel have been relieved and ordered back to the 6th ID camp.
Hermoso declined to give more comments pending the results of the investigation.
North Cotabato and the neighboring province of Maguindanao have earlier declared a total log ban in their jurisdictions in a bid to save their remaining forests.
During heavy floods that submerged communities in North Cotabato, Cotabato City and Maguindanao, it was found that the some of the volume of water came from Alamada’s mountain ranges.
Alamada town is one of North Cotabato tourism drawer, being the host of the majestic Asik-asik Falls.
Some environmental groups expressed concern that if illegal logging will continue, Asik-asik Falls might be gone. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)