PNoy vows 'vacation in jail' for illegal loggers

Posted at 06/19/2012 12:52 PM | Updated as of 06/19/2012 5:05 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 1) - President Aquino vowed to intensify the government’s campaign against illegal logging, ordering the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Justice, and Enrvironment and Natural Resources to step up the arrest and conviction of illegal loggers.


In a speech at the 25th anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the President said that there are still those who do not take seriously his anti-illegal logging policy despite an executive order imposing a moratorium on logging in natural and residual forests.


He noted that illegally cut logs were discovered during the height of typhoon Sendong when they were washed away.


“Tila may mga hindi naniniwala na talagang seryoso tayo doon sa ban sa logging. Tuloy tuloy pa ho ang pagtotroso. Meron pang mga kakuntsaba na miyembro ng pamahalaan. Tutal naman po, deretsuhan na tayong hinahamon. Tinatanggap ko po ang hamon. Inaatasan natin ang mga kalihim ng DILG, DOJ, at DENR na magpulong at pag-isipan, planuhin, gawin kung paano pa mapapaigting ang ating kampanya laban sa illegal logging at maniguradong ‘yung mga conviction ay maparami pa,” Aquino said.


The President said he expects that the agencies will be report to him monthly an increase in the arrest and conviction of illegal loggers, assuring violators of a “vacation” in jail.


“Siguro utusan na rin natin ang Bureau of Corrections na maghanda ng mga dagdag na lugar doon para makapagbakasyon na ‘yung mga akala’y nagbibiro ako,” he said.


“Inaasahan ko rin na tuwing buwan ay may nirereport sila sa akin na parami nang parami ang mga nahuhuli at naco-convict hanggang sa maubos na po sila at magbakasyon sa Bureau of Corrections,” he said.


The President also ordered the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Invesigation to form a joint task force to hunt down and arrest the perpetrators and mastermind of the murder of numerous forest rangers and DENR personnel enforcing environmental laws.


He also made an on-the-spot instruction to Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, Jr. to set aside P5 million from the Presidential Social Fund and donate it to the foundation that provides financial assistance to the families of DENR personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.


Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno chairs the board of trustees of the foundation named Alay sa Anak ng Bayan (ALAB) ng Kalikasan Foundation, Inc.


Puno was cited by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje as the “best chief justice” of the Philippines, saying he is an “icon of environmental justice” for designating 117 courts as environmental courts and for innovating the Writ of Kalikasan.


Anti-illegal logging campaign


According to the DENR’s performance report delivered by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, 13.3 million board feet of confiscated logs valued at P330 million have been confiscated; 328 cases have been filed and that there have been 57 convictions.


The confiscated logs have been used to build 73,710 school chairs; 8,737 desks; and 2,208 other school furniture and repair 378 school buildings.


Paje said the President has expressed his “disgust” over the “unabated” illegal logging in Agusan. Paje warned that illegal logging has to be stopped in Mindanao.


A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the DENR and ARMM OIC-Governor Mujiv Hataman for the forestland boundary delineation and cadastral survey in the region with P44 million in funds. The project is aimed at establishing of permanent boundary between the timberland and the alienable and disposable lands to help prevent the “intrusion of destructive activities in the region’s forestland.”


A check amounting to P11.7 million was also given to the ARMM, representing the first tranche of the P49.6 million fund assistance of the DENR for the implementation of the National Greening Program in the ARMM.


National greening program

To also mark the occasion, the President planted the 100 millionth seedling of the National Greening Program at the Palace grounds. He was assisted by retired Chief Justice Puno, Secretary Paje, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, and Civil Service Commission Chair Francisco Duque.


The President planted a tindalo seedling that came from a tindalo tree planted by President Manuel L. Quezon in 1938 at the Bacolod public plaza.


In 2011, The President signed an executive order mandating the implementation of a National Greening Program targeting to plant 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 million hectares by 2016.


“Mantakin po ninyo: ang minana nating sakop ng kagubatan, 15.8 million hectares. Mahigit kalahati po nito, o mahigit walong milyong ektarya, ay nakatiwangwang at paubos na. Ayon po sa DENR, kung aampunin lang natin ang usad-pagong na reforestation program ng nakaraang administrasyon, aabutin tayo ng 280 years bago maisaayos ang mga nasirang kagubatan. Kung hindi tayo kikilos para isalba ito, para na rin nating isinuko ang buhay, kabuhayan at kinabukasan ng milyun-milyong Pilipino,” he said in his speech.  


DENR Secretary Paje cited an increase in the vegetated area as a result of the NGP. He said that as of 2011, 89.6 million trees have been planted in 128,558 hectares.


Paje said that the Philippines was categorized as a “strong” performer in environmental performance in the Environmental Performance Index, improving the Philippines’ ranking from number 50 in 2010 to number 42 among 132 countries. He said the country outranked Australia, the USA, Singapore and Israel.


Paje said the Philippines got perfect score in the following indicators: protecting forest cover, growing forest stock, increasing carbon sequestration by growing forest, agricultural subsidies for lowland and upland farmers, and reducing outdoor air pollution.


While there was a reduction in air pollution in 2011, Paje, however, cited an increase in pollution in Metro Manila in the first quarter of 2012. He said he would be meeting with the LTO chief and the Philippine Medical Association to discuss efforts to reduce pollution in Metro Manila.

Cleaning the waterways


The President also went to the Pasig River loading area outside the Palace Heroes Hall to view the four trash boats designed to collect trash in waterways.  The DENR will purchase 20 more trash boats to help local government units in cleaning up rivers, creeks, and other tributaries as part of the efforts to clean up Manila Bay.


Meantime, an additional 36 private companies and four local governments have joined the Adopt-an-Estero/Water Body Program to clean up and restore water bodies.