COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Newly appointed officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Mujiv Hataman has relieved Lanao del Sur’s chief natural resources officer, even as he ordered Task Force Ranao to help address the problem of illegal logging.
Hataman said he ordered the dismissal of Malik Pangandaman, disappointed that the latter was unaware of the extent of logging operations in the province.
He said officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-ARMM could not also explain the presence of hardwood flitches, commonly known as tablon, along portions of the Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway in Lanao del Sur which he saw on his way to Marawi City.
“They could not give me even a simple chronological history of logging operations in the province in particular and in the ARMM in general,” Hataman said.
Hataman has yet to appoint a new ARMM natural resources secretary.
Local officials in Lanao del Sur have confirmed that despite the logging ban declared by the previous ARMM governor, logging operations in Lanao del Sur persisted, with alleged backing from regional officials.
There have also been reports of shipments of forest products to Metro Manila and Visayas from provinces near the forestlands of the autonomous region that were covered by documents issued by DENR-ARMM insiders.
“The forest products were made to appear as if they have originated from the autonomous region,” a Maranaw local executive told The STAR.
Hataman said he has ordered his executive secretary, lawyer Anwar Malang, to immediately coordinate with the DENR offices in administrative regions to seize and scrutinize all forest products that come from the autonomous region.
Peace advocacy outfits and environmentalists appealed to Hataman to enlist the support of the military in enforcing an anti-logging campaign in the region.
He said he will discuss the issue with Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Presidential Adviser on Natural Resources and Environmental Concerns Neric Acosta.
Hataman met Saturday with the Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., 103rd Army Brigade commander Col. Daniel Lucero, and officials of the DENR and the civil society organizations to discuss the problem of illegal logging in the province.
Upon his assumption last week, Hataman had imposed a total log ban in his region after assessment showed that illegal logging have contributed to the deadly flash floods that hit Iligan City when typhoon “Sendong” struck the country.
He also vowed to uncover the discrepancies in the issuance of permits to loggers and poachers citing cut logs that he saw along the highway while on his way to Marawi City.
“Some of the permits were issued by the national office of the DENR while some were locally secured,” he said.
But Hataman said it is too early to point an accusing finger at anyone pending the result of the investigation. – With Roel Pareño