Sierra Madre folk doubt logging ban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:32:00 01/15/2011, newsinfo.inquirer.net
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Natives of a mountain range being ravaged by logging expressed doubt President Aquino’s plan to order a logging ban would succeed, saying they had heard the same promise over and over but logging continued.
Ramcy Astoveza, a leader of the Agta-Dumagat tribe and executive director of the Tribal Center for Development Foundation Inc., recalled that after the 2004 killer flash floods and landslides in northern Quezon, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a logging moratorium in Sierra Madre and other forested parts of the country.
“But the real intention to save the forest from further destruction miserably failed because of insincere implementation of the log ban,” said Astoveza.
“As a matter of fact, illegal logging never stops and has continued to rape our natural habitat up to the present,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.
He said his tribe was saddened because, despite their willingness to support Arroyo’s total log ban policy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources failed to enforce it.
Astoveza said almost all past presidents had declared a log ban.
“But all of them failed. They all blew their chances to really save our forests,” said Astoveza.
“Now, here comes another one from President Aquino. Truth is, we are not optimistic that another log ban would really solve the problem of continued forest rape,” he said.
On Friday, President Aquino announced that he planned to order a logging ban in provinces that were devastated by floods and landslides believed caused by forest denudation.
Fr. Pete Montallana, chair of Save Sierra Madre Network, reported to Mr. Aquino the continued logging in Sierra Madre in Aurora province and northern part of Quezon and blamed widespread corruption in the DENR.
In his open letter to the President dated Jan. 13, Montallana cited documented cases of illegal logging that was made possible by corrupt DENR men in Aurora and Quezon.
“Environmentalists have welcomed your administration with much hope that things would finally change at the DENR,” said Montallana. “But as far as the destruction of the forests in the Sierra Madre is concerned it has been business as usual,” the priest’s letter said.
Montallana said the DENR simply deceives the public with press releases on its supposed anticorruption campaign and accomplishment list.
“If only there is a big camera in the Sierra Madre, then the whole country would know the real score,” Montallana said.
“The big question is this: Can DENR heal itself?” the priest said.
Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, head of the Prelature of Infanta, also blamed corrupt DENR personnel for the continued destruction of Sierra Madre.
Tirona called on the government to “wage an all-out war, not words only” against illegal loggers and miners in Sierra Madre.
Three DENR Quezon chiefs have been sacked due to failure to stop illegal logging in Sierra Madre. One of the sacked environment officials, Emrich Borja, managed to return to his old post last year.
Citing their long years of experience as forest watchdog, Montallana told Mr. Aquino that the situation remained the same in the Sierra Madre under his administration. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon