Atienza’s Sierra Madre summit, a PR stint, says Pamalakaya

Atienza’s Sierra Madre summit, a PR stint, says Pamalakaya

Leftwing activists belonging to fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said the Feb.4 Sierra Madre Summit to be hosted by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joselito Atienza is nothing but a publicity blitzkrieg.

“The Sierra Madre Summit escapade is in preparations for the former Manila Mayor’s comeback bid as politician whether as mayoralty candidate of Manila or senatorial candidate of the administration party in 2010 national elections,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Tomorrow, the DENR will convene all stakeholders of the Sierra Madre to resolve the issues and concerns confronting the country’s longest mountain ranges. In a statement, posted on DENR website, Atienza said the meeting will focus on how to strengthen the gains from collective efforts to protect Sierra Madre.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap said instead of attending the publicity stint of Secretary Atienza, stakeholders should pursue an all-out investigation on the continuing rape of Sierra Madre that would include former DENR Secretaries Angelo Reyes and Michael Defensor and incumbent secretary Atienza.

The fisherfolk leader said groups like Conservation International, World Wide Fund for Nature, Tanggol Kalikasan and Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, together with church leaders and other civil society groups should demand a full-blown inquiry on the state of Sierra Madre by the Senate and the House Committees on environment and natural resources rather than subscribe to Atienza’s one-man show in DENR.

“It is about time to bring the issue of Sierra Madre out of the DENR’s political theater. DENR is the solution, it is part of the long-running problem and nightmare,” said Pamalakaya.

“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,” 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. #

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