DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the creation of four special composite teams tasked to augment the anti-illegal logging operations in Cagayan Valley, the Bicol Region and the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
Cimatu issued the order to DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns Bernardo Leonardo in pursuant of Executive Order 23, Series of 2011, which calls for the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force from the national to the regional and provincial levels.
The creation of the augmentation teams in those areas, Cimatu said, is a strategic move on the part of the DENR to shift its orientation in forest protection operation more towards prevention by “going hard and swift” against the financiers and operators.
Each team is composed of representatives from the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police.
Cimatu stressed that there is a need to shift from reactive to preventive in their efforts to curb illegal logging by stopping criminals before they cut trees.
He said that it is high time for the agency to move away from the traditional model of forest protection operation, which has been “largely measured in terms of apprehended undocumented forest products, and not in terms of standing trees.”
“Ang trophy ay ‘yung nakatayong mga puno, hindi ‘yung mga putol na,” Cimatu said during the recent meeting of the Build Back Better Task Force in charge of the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by recent strong typhoons.
Cimatu, who co-chairs the task force, said the massive flooding that submerged parts of Cagayan Valley region, Rizal province and Marikina City during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses should serve as a “wake-up call for DENR field offices to recognize their accomplishments in the confiscation of undocumented forestproducts “not as trophies” but as ” manifestations of their failure” as DENR enforcement officers.
“The illegally-gathered forest products should actually be regarded as their (DENR field offices) failure to prevent these trees from being illegally cut,” Cimatu said, as he noted that illegal logging has been tagged as one of the reasons behind the devastating Ulysses floods.
Cimatu added that the key to curbing illegal logging is to identify and penalize the financiers and operators, noting that only transporters and buyers in possession of undocumented forest products are oftentimes collared in illegal logging operations.
The DENR’s Environment Protection and Enforcement Task Force has reported that some 62,666 board feet of undocumented forest products have been apprehended between the months of June and October.
Most of the apprehended forest products were narra, red and white lauan, bagtikan and bita.
Five conveyances—consisting of two six-wheeler trucks, two closed vans and a motorcycle—were also seized during the period.
Cimatu had earlier said the DENR would not scale-down efforts to enforce forestry laws during the pandemic and its field officers would continue to patrol forests.