Aquino steps up drive vs illegal logging

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has ordered various concerned agencies to strengthen government efforts in curbing illegal logging and ensure the restoration and preservation of the country’s forests for the benefit of the future generations.
The President directed the departments of environment, justice, and interior and local government to discuss measures on how to improve and strengthen the campaign against illegal cutting and harvesting of timber.
“There are people who are not taking our log ban seriously and continue to defy it. They even conspire with members of government. Because of this, I ordered the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government and DENR to improve anti-illegal logging campaign and make sure that these people will be convicted,” he said during the silver anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Malacañang.
“I also asked the Bureau of Corrections to reserve more space in jail for these illegal loggers. I expect them to arrest and convict more illegal loggers every month,” he added.
President Aquino in February last year issued Executive Order 23 declaring and indefinite log ban and creating an Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force headed by the DENR head.
The President reiterated his commitment to protect the environment and plant more trees in line with the government’s National Greening Program (NGP).
The NGP was launched by Aquino last year as the government’s largest greening program, aiming to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide in five years.
Aquino planted the 100 millionth seedling produced for the NGP called tindalo (Afzelia rhomboidea). The seedling came from the seed of the 65-year-old Tindalo tree, which was planted by then President Manuel Quezon in 1938. The tree stands at the Bacolod Public Plaza.
“If we adopt the turtle pace reforest program of the past administration, it will take us 280 years to restore the forest…Under the NGP, we will double the efforts in tree planting within six years…In the first year, we have planted 89.6 million trees in 128,600 hectares of land,” he said.
He said he will convince Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to increase the budget for NGP.
President Aquino also witnessed the signing of two Memoranda of Agreements (MOA) between Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Governor Mujiv Hataman and the DENR on the delineation of the Armm’s forest boundaries and on the conduct of cadastral survey in the region.
Under the MOA, the DENR-national will assist the DENR-Armm in establishing a permanent boundary between its timberlands and alienable and disposable lands “in order to prevent activities that may be detrimental to its forests.”
The cadastral survey, meanwhile, will hasten the processing and issuance of land titles to the rightful claimants of public lands within the region.
The DENR turned over two checks amounting to P44 million and P377 million as financial assistance to Armm for forestland delineation and cadastral survey, respectively.
Hataman also received a P11-million check for the first tranche of the P49.6-million fund assistance for the implementation of the NGP in the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
5-million donation for environmental heroes
Additional P5-million endowment fund was also allocated for the families of DENR employees who have died while performing their duty in protecting the environment.
The fund will be administered by the Alay sa Anak ng Bayani (Alab) ng Kalikasan Foundation Inc. of which former Chief Justice Reynato Puno will serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The seed fund for the foundation amounts to P314,241 donated by the Civil Service Commission in September 2011 derived from the proceeds of a fundraising fun run event.
To date, 14 DENR employees and environmentalists have been killed under the Aquino administration, DENR Butuan employee Ricardo Magallanes being the most recent on June 1.
“This series of events has a chilling effect on various environmental groups,” Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said.

He cited the case of the illegal logging operations discovered inside the 13,800-hectare forest traversing Zambales and the Pangasinan town of Mangaterem.

The senator said the Aquino administration’s call for environmental protection should be matched by measures that will protect those who respond to the call.

To abate the killings, Cayetano suggested the creation of a joint DENR and Department of Justice (DOJ) task force to investigate the deaths and recommend measures to counter the deadly tactics of the syndicates and unscrupulous businessmen.

Cayetano said that with local agencies manning the front lines, it is the responsibility of the National Government to provide all the support in the campaign particularly against illegal loggers and miners.

Adopt-an-estero program

Also in the event, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje presented to President Aquino 40 new partners in its “adopt-an-estero” or water body program intended to enhance private-public sector partnership to rehabilitate the degraded waterways in the country.

The program comprises of 36 private companies including four mining companies and four local chief executives.
Paje said the new partners have committed to restore water bodies in different parts of Calabarzon region, Pangasinan province and San Juan River in Metro Manila.

Among the 40 new partners include Absolut Distillers Inc., Amkor Technology Phils. Inc., Antel Holdings Inc., AP Renewable Inc., Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific of Manila Inc., Cathay Pacific Steel Corp., Central Azucarera Don Pedro Inc., Clean Echo Techwin Inc., Cleanway Technology Corp., CMPC & BEVCO Philippines Inc., Consolidated Distillers of the Far East Inc., First Gas Power Corp, Holcim, Jetti Petroleum Inc., and Horizon Land Property Development Corp.

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Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Philippines 2023

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