SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines – The government should name all loggers, both legal and illegal, in northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and charge them with “environmental plunder and other heinous crimes” as a result of the tragedy that befell the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan during tropical storm “Sendong.”
The militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also urged President Aquino to immediately scrap all six Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs) granted in northern Mindanao covering a total of 55,578 hectares, saying that these logging sites were merely about 100 kilometers from the two devastated cities.
Pamalakaya said the Aquino administration should identify the corporate loggers and their protectors from the national government and the military and the local government units that granted them permits to operate in northern Mindanao and the ARMM.
Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje should disclose the list of companies allowed by the government to cut trees in the two regions over the last 20 years and “determine their accountability.”
He said the list should include companies allowed to operate under the present administration, as well as those operating illegally.
Hicap said government officials should stop blaming the residents for the tragedy. “It was not their fault,” he said, adding that both the Arroyo and Aquino administrations should be blamed for tolerating “logging clients in Mindanao and the military generals who are enrolled in the payroll of these logging firms.”
Despite the logging ban ordered by Aquino, Hicap said the forests in northern Mindanao and the ARMM “remain open to big-time loggers whether they are legal or illegal.”
Hicap recalled that last May, illegal timber was seized in Cagayan de Oro City, suspected to be large-scale logging operations in northern Mindanao and in the critical Lake Lanao watershed in Lanao del Sur.
“It appears to us that the log ban is toothless and it is still business as usual for large-scale legal and illegal loggers in northern Mindanao and ARMM,” he said. - By Ding Cervantes