Eastern Visayas forest guards told to name illegal loggers

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here has asked forest guards to identify local officials and businessmen directly financing rampant illegal logging operations in Samar.

The agency made the call after DENR personnel conducted a series of raids in Barangay Tinabanan in Marabut Samar and seized a big volume of abandoned, freshly-cut logs of lawaan, yakal, and patsaragon.

DENR Regional Director Leonardo Sibbaluca told Rappler that this illegally cut lumbers were being hauled and brought along the pathways. They are believed to be delivered to Tacloban City and other places in the region to be made into furniture.

Quoting intelligence reports, Sibbaluca said the cutting of the seized forest products was believed to have been financed by influential personalities and businessmen in Samar.

DENR authorities admitted they were facing blank wall on who really cut, hauled, and owned all the illegally cut logs, considering that they did not find anybody during the raids. They found only a stockpile of sliced lumber in a forest in Marabut, and considered it a sign that somebody was cutting them up into commercial sizes.

Meanwhile, Elpidio Cabahit Jr, chief of the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Unit of the environmental office of Sta. Rita, admitted that it was very difficult to monitor a total of 186,864 hectares of forested lands in Samar.

He said his office has only 3 forest guards monitoring all the 9 towns: Sta. Rita, Basey, Marabut, Calbiga, Hinabangan, Pinabacdao, San Sebastian, Talalora, and Villareal.

“We lack men, logistics to guard our forests, and they face danger since some forested areas are rebel-infested and some illegal loggers are also armed,” Cabahit said.

However, he said, the DENR regional office is committed to restore the 15,430 hectares of forest cover in the town Marabut, and it will be under the supervision of the local government.

DENR personnel believe that informal settlers within the forested area of Marabut are behind the timber poaching activities.

Marabut Samar, according to Cabahit, should be preserved as a tourist destination and not for logging.

DENR's 2011-2016 Development Plan targets to ban all logging activities in forested areas nationwide.

All DENR personnel are all mandated to uphold Executive Order 23, which prohibits the issuance and renewal of logging contracts and tree-cutting permits. – Rappler.com