IN the wake of widespread flooding caused by Typhoon Ulysses, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to implement a crackdown on illegal logging, illegal quarrying and expedite the planting of trees in coordination with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said all LGUs and PNP units across the country must prioritize the protection of the environment, especially for a disaster-prone and stricken nation such as the Philippines. “We must act quickly and in a whole-of-society fashion to protect our remaining forests across the country, otherwise we are creating and causing more disasters for our country,” he said.
“The flooding brought by Typhoon Ulysses is a harsh reminder that we are failing at doing our level best to protect the environment, especially our remaining forest cover. Kaya’t inaatasan ko ang lahat ng PNP units at LGUs na pigilan ang illegal logging at illegal quarrying sa kanilang mga nasasakupan,” Año said.
He added that widespread flooding in Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Marikina, Rizal and in other parts of the country “should be a wake-up call to all of us that we must protect our remaining forest cover, preserve our rich biodiversity, and allow our forests to regenerate and grow again.”
Año said all LGUs and PNP units must reactivate their local anti-illegal logging task forces in coordination with the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the DENR. The task forces were created under Executive Order 23, s. 2011 composed of the DENR, DILG, DND, AFP, PNP and the LGUs.
The DILG chief also reminded all LGUs that under DENR Memorandum Circular 2011 all municipal/city mayors, though their respective barangay captains, are to conduct upland monitoring “to ensure that no illegal logging, kaingin and other forms of forest destruction” take place within their jurisdictions with the directive to report to their regional task forces (RTFs), “through the provincial governor and/or the DILG regional director” incidents of forests destruction especially slash and burn farming (kaingin) and illegal logging activities.
“All LGUs must reactivate their local anti-illegal logging task force and be decisive in implementing the anti-illegal logging campaign and implementation of environmental laws and programs within their localities,” he said.
Año also directed the PNP to set up checkpoints and arrest illegal loggers who violate the Revised Forestry Code with strict emphasis on Section 79 stipulating the “Unlawful Occupation or Destruction of Forest Lands and Grazing Lands.”
Under the said section, any person who “causes any damage to the timber stand and other products and forest growth found therein” shall be punished under the said Code while Section 89 of the same Code states that “Philippine National Police shall arrest even without warrant any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of the offenses defined in this Chapter.”
He said that illegal loggers will be criminally charged for violating the Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. 705) and the Republic Act No. 9175 or the Chainsaw Act of 2002, among others.
“It is imperative that we must stop the wanton destruction of our remaining forest resources not only for our sake but also for future generations who will suffer the consequences of our inaction,” he said.
Año also urged all LGUs to deploy more forest guards and the DENR to deploy more foresters to monitor our forests and engage local communities and Civil Society Organizations in reforestation programs particularly the National Greening Program,” he said.