by Ronna Marie A. Badua
8 February 2017 - In response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s (PRRD) pronouncement during the Climate Change Commission and Advisory Board Meeting last January 31, 2017 to form a Tripartite Convergence Committee (DENR-DA-DILG) to study the possibility of a total log ban throughout the country, the National Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development (NCI-SRD) called for an emergency meeting of the Alternate National Steering Committee (ANSC).
Apparently, the Chief Executive gave the orders upon hearing the extensive damage brought about by the flash floods experienced in Mindanao particularly in Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and North Cotabato. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said, “The President wants a total log ban with no exemptions, PRRD attributed the destructive floods to the persistent logging in Mindanao watersheds”.
Prompted by Pres. Duterte’s bid to protect the watershed around the country, the top-caliber officials of the four (4) rural development agencies: DA Usec. for Special Concerns Atty. Ranibai D. Dilangalen; DAR Usec. for Support Services Office Rosalina L. Bistoyong, CESO I; DENR Usec. Jonas Leones; DILG Usec. for Local Government Austere A. Panadero, CESO I; NCI National Focal Person Dir. Silvino Q. Tejada, CESO III; NCI Deputy National Focal Person and BSWM Dir. Angel C. Enriquez; DENR-FMB Dir. Ricardo L. Calderon; and, NCI Senior Technical Adviser Oscar O. Parawan, quickly assembled to address the issue.
Dir. Ricardo L. Calderon of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) presented a briefing on the EO No. 23 aka “Declaring a Moratorium on the Cutting and Harvesting of Timber in the Natural and Residual Forest and Creating the Anti- illegal Logging Task Force”. He said, “EO 23 has been implemented since 2011 and has since decrease illegal logging hotspots to eighty-eight percent (88%): from 197 in 2010 to only 23 in 2016.”
“Logging is the Philippines can still be done because the truth is, a lot of commercial and economic developments depend on wood/lumber industry. But those who practice the activity must secure a cutting permit from the DENR and their area of operation is outside natural and/or residual forests. More so, logging within critical watersheds is highly prohibited. They (loggers) can be charged with criminal and administrative cases at the same time if caught”, Dir. Calderon added. “The logging companies who are responsible enough to acquire cutting permits from our office are far easier to regulate because they are regularly being monitored. Those who do not are the cause of problems because we don’t have an idea on what we are dealing with. Even the IPs have become wood poachers when they should be the one protecting the forest”
To this, Usec. Bistoyong supplemented saying, “That is why we are here because there is a need to identify alternative livelihood for these forest dwellers so they can get away from this kind of illegal activity and they can resume their responsibility as forest guardians.”
To address these predicaments, the ANSC agreed through a resolution stipulating that the NCI National Steering Committee composed of the DA-DAR-DENR-DILG Secretaries chaired by the Agriculture Chief to assume the Tripartite Convergence Committee (TCC) on Illegal Logging to ensure the improvement, conservation, protection, and rehabilitation of forest resources through the development and implementation of environmental-friendly enterprises and livelihood opportunities.
Likewise, NCI National Technical Working Group (TWG) headed by the National Focal Person Dir. Silvino Q. Tejada, CESO III will serve as the TCC-TWG to spearhead the crafting of the guidelines in the implementation of a tougher government action against illegal logging.
To further strengthen the efforts to eradicate illegal logging, the NCI will engage the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the committee through a Memorandum of Agreement to formalize their involvement
The workshop for the formulation of the said guidelines is set on February 21, 2017 at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management in time for a presentation during the ANSC Meeting on the following day.