LEGAZPI CITY -— The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol has assured the public that it will take the lead in strictly implementing President Benigno Aquino III’s Executive Order (EO) 23 that places the entire country under an indefinite log ban.
EO 23, entitled “Declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the national and residual forests and creating the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force,” was issued last Feb. 3 in light of massive flooding and landslides that have killed scores of people and displaced more others in Bicol and several parts of Mindanao, Eastern Visayas.
The order was issued in the wake of findings that the unabated illegal logging activities in these areas remained to be the main culprit of those disasters.
Under the EO, the DENR would be restricted from issuing logging permits and contracts “in all natural and residual forests,” including renewing tree cutting permits in all forests all over the country.
“Our field offices have been instructed to abide by the order and rigorously monitor activities in identified natural forest in the region and prosecute all violators until they are meted with fines and penalties as provided by the law,” DENR Bicol’s regional spokesman Alfredo Araya said.
The DENR believes that EO 23 will provide a good balance of forest for perpetuity by shifting timber harvesting in tree plantations only, according to Araya.
Joselin Marcus Fragada on the other hand said that illegal logging or tree cutting operations in Bicol are insignificant since there are no Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) holders. The last known logging contract in Bicol was cancelled during the seventies, he said citing DENR records.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje, meanwhile, explained that with EO 23, timber extraction has now become a purely “what-you-plant-is-what-you-cut enterprise” especially for the 145 holders of the 25-year IFMA, which cover 1.02 million hectares of forest lands in the country.