Operatives of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) and members of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, with the aid of local police units, seized a total of 62 cubic meters of assorted and illegally cut logs composed of mixed dipterocarp (or the local lauan) red and white, almon, tangile, bagtikan, and mayapis, last Monday at about 3:30 p.m. in Agusan del Sur.
According to various reports, Lt. Col. Eugenio Osias IV, the spokesman of the Army’s 4th Division and Renato Miranda, executive director of AILTF, said that a total of P308, 000 worth of illegally cut logs at the Ihaoan and Johnson Rivers in Loreto town and Adgawan River in La Paz town were stopped while being transported to lumber processing plants of unidentified owners.
The military report said the AILTF operatives received information from concerned citizens on the illegal logging within the area.
“The timely information of a concerned citizen received by the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force made this operation successful,” said Osias in Philstar.com.
Combined efforts were immediately launched to raid reported unscrupulous logging activities.
Confiscated logs were turned over to Talocogon Community Environment and Natural Resources office for safekeeping.
Illegal loggers who are said to be backed by influential politicians and businessmen engaged in crooked activities, continue to cut timber within the 51, 000- hectare Manobo Agroforestation Complex in Agusan del Sur, allegedly taking advantage of the death of Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), said Manobo Chieftain Bae Hawodon Cugbahan Merlyn Tagleong Coguit.
The late secretary has been described as the “main man” of President Noynoy Aquino III in his anti-illegal logging campaign.
Said complex is legally owned by the Manobo tribe as backed by the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim 132 which provides them authority to harvest, transport, sell, and process natural resources within the complex.
Coguit said the illegal logging activities were renewed in the mountain barangays of Pangyan, Sta. Maria, Cebulin, San Ignacio, Tudela, San Isidro, and in the towns of Trento, Bunawan, and Veruela. The mountains of Talacogon and Ezperanza shared the biggest portion of illegally cut logs sourced in Augusan del Sur for Davao City-based buyers.
Executive Order 23 and the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force
According to the Official Gazette of the Office of the President, Aquino issued Executive Order 23 to implement indefinite and absolute nationwide log ban and to create an Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF). The moratorium on cutting and harvesting of timber was issued in consonance with the widespread landslides and flooding in Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, and Mindanao, which took hundreds of lives and displaced scores of families.
EO 23 restricted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in granting, issuing, and renewing logging contracts and permits in all forests throughout the country, with exceptions in road right of way and cultural activities subject to strict compliance of DENR guidelines.
The AILTF is spearheaded by the DILG secretary as chairman and backed by key government officials such as DENR and National Defense secretaries; Philippine National Police (PNP) chief; Armed Forces of the Philippines’(AFP) chief of staff as members. The PNP and AFP, in particular, are tasked to give assistance to the task force in raiding, confiscating, and running after illegal loggers.
Governor Adolph Edward Plaza and several mayors in Agusan del Sur were earlier investigated for their alleged links and inaction on the rampant illegal logging operations in the whole province.
Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, meanwhile, has filed House Resolution 2549 to spearhead a legislative investigation in the rampant illegal cutting of trees, especially that which involves the Manobo complex, and to put an end to the destructive activities in Mindanao.