Militants ask lawmakers to probe big time loggers’ escapade in Sierra Madre
Leftwing activists belonging to fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday urged lawmakers to investigate what it called the “institutionalized and unhampered logging activities of big time logging syndicates in Sierra Madre, asserting that the proposed probe was long overdue and should have been done three years ago.
“We have a make-or-break situation here. We should not wait for another catastrophe to happen before the August chambers of Senate and the House of Representatives act on this issue with dispatch and full-blown resolution,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.
The Pamalakaya leader was referring to the Quezon tragedy in 2004 where more than 1,000 farmers and fisherfolk died due to heavy flash floods and mudslides as a result of rampant big logging activities in Quezon and Aurora provinces and other parts of the Sierra Madre range.
“As far as we are concerned the government in its so-called war against illegal logging was only running after small time loggers and consciously spared big time logging corporations from its’ campaign to punish logging corporations and big logging lords in Sierra Madre,” added Hicap.
Hicap put to task Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to immediately order the Senate and the House committees on natural resources and environment to undertake a separate or joint committee hearing on the revived escapades of big time logging syndicates in Sierra Madre.
“The big problem here is that Senate President Enrile is a big time logging lord in Eastern Samar and Speaker Nograles is the top political point person of Malacañang which maintains big time logging groups as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s day-to-day corporate clients. Anyway, the investigation on the rape of Sierra Madre in aid of legislation must be pursued at all cost to determine the real score,” said Pamalakaya.
According to DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Region IV director Nilo Tamoria, illegal loggers are taking advantage of a road project that runs along the slopes of the virgin forests to transport cut logs.
Tamoria said intelligence reports bared that illegal loggers were loading undocumented lumber, which they pass off as construction materials, in the Marikina-Infanta Road project. He said illegal loggers were forced to take the alternative route after the DENR, the military, and multisectoral groups cordoned off their usual route in Tanay town, Rizal province.
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya reiterated its call the immediate and unconditional resignation of DENR Secretary Joselito Atienza after a Church-based group environmental group in Quezon revealed that illegal logging activities are back in the province.
“Big time logging activities whether they are legal or illegal are back with a vengeance in Quezon province under the stewardship of Secretary Atienza in the name of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Sierra Madre range will be fully denuded if Atienza and this regime of big time logging syndicates will continue to rule like immortal mass murderer of trees and forests,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said the national government and the DENR have yet to release official reports how they deal with six of the biggest logging corporations operating in Quezon and Aurora provinces, whose permits were approved by President Arroyo.
Pamalakaya was referring to logging corporations, which were previously not included in the “anti-logging campaign” of the government. The militant group said until now, no reports were made about the status of Green Circles Corp. (30,000 hectares in General Nakar), International Hardwood and Veneer Corporation (13,527 hectares in Mauban, Quezon), Timberland Forest Products (34,660 hectares in Gen. Nakar, Quezon), Industries Development Corp. (48,777 hectares in Aurora province), RCC Timber Co. (23,140 hectares in Aurora) and Top Lite Corp. (8,630 hectares in Aurora).
“Are they still operating in Sierra Madre? Nobody from Malacañang and the office of Secretary Atienza dared to answer this question,” the militant group said.
“ President Arroyo and her past environmental secretaries are criminally liable for the massive death and destruction in Aurora and Quezon provinces. The Office of the President and the DENR deserved public outrage and wholesale condemnation, nothing more, nothing less”, Pamalakaya said.
On January 2001, the government allowed International Hardwood and Veneer Corp. to operate on the 13,527 hectares of forest areas in Mauban, Quezon and on November 12, 2002, the national government through the DENR approved the logging operation of Timberland Forest Products covering 34, 660 hectares in General Nakar, Quezon.
Pamalakaya said President Arroyo also approved the application for logging operations of Industries Development Corp. and RCC Timber Corporation on December 5, 2001 covering Aurora province through the IFMA. The two logging companies were allowed to cover 48, 877 hectares and 23,140 hectares respectively.
On July 9, 2002, the DENR approved the logging permit of Top Lite Corp. also in Aurora, which covered 8,630 hectares. While ex-DENR secretary Elisea Gozun suspended the permit for quite sometime, but former environment secretary Michael Defensor overturned the decision and lifted the suspension. #