BUTUAN CITY, Philippines – Members of the Manobo tribal community in La Paz, Tacalogon town in Agusan del Sur trooped to the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here Friday seeking the release of nearly 3,000 illegally cut logs confiscated along the Agusan River last Monday.
The tribal folk, led by 24 chieftains, sought audience with DENR regional executive director Leonardo Sibbaluca, saying proceeds of the seized logs, which were harvested from their ancestral lands, will be used for the enrollment and other school expenses of their children.
“We are appealing to President Aquino and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to give us consideration,” Datu Manlauman said.
But Sibbaluca said it is beyond his authority to release the confiscated logs.
“We understand the situation of our tribal brothers but the law is clear that the cutting of trees in natural and residual areas are prohibited under EO 23, “ he said.
Under EO 23, the cutting of trees that have been part of cultural activities of indigenous peoples “may be allowed only subject to strict compliance with existing guidelines of the DENR.”
The tribal group vowed to hold a two-day protest rally until tomorrow when Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo visits this city.
Meanwhile, a joint DENR-LGU-PNP anti-illegal logging task force confiscated another 26,000 illegally sawn logs in separate operations at the boundary of Compostela Valley and Trento town on Thursday.
Sibbaluca said the hot logs, which the DENR regional office placed under its custody, have an estimated market value of P6 million. He said the driver and truck helpers escaped.
“We are now determining the owner of the cargo truck,” Sibbaluca said.
Another14,000 board feet of lawaan logs with an estimated market value of P280,000 were also seized by authorities yesterday.
Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. said the owner of the illegally cut logs is wood trader Roger Edma, whose brother is said to be a town mayor in Bukidnon. - By Ben Serrano