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January 16, 2013
Cancel “logging permits” in Davao Oriental, envi rights group says

As Pablo already claimed the lives of 990 individuals and damaged over PHP 21 billion in agriculture and infrastructure in the Davao region alone, Panalipdan said it is not enough to just give relief goods and help for the rebuilding of lives of affected people in Southern Mindanao. “We must also demand for justice and exact accountability from companies and government that plundered environmental resources with impunity,” Francis Morales, Panalipdan’s secretary general said.

By ALEX D. LOPEZ
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — To arrest and reverse the loss of forest covers and prevent more destruction due to extreme weather conditions, an environmental group here called on the Aquino government to cancel all existing “logging permits” issued in Davao Oriental.

Panalipdan (Defend)-Southern Mindanao said 16 “logging permits” were granted by the government to the holders of Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMA) in the province which covers 82,443.39 hectares in Baganga, Cateel, Caraga and Manay – towns which are severely devastated by typhoon Pablo.

As Pablo already claimed the lives of 990 individuals and damaged over PHP 21 billion in agriculture and infrastructure in the Davao region alone, Panalipdan said it is not enough to just give relief goods and help for the rebuilding of lives of affected people in Southern Mindanao.

“We must also demand for justice and exact accountability from companies and government that plundered environmental resources with impunity,” Francis Morales, Panalipdan’s secretary general said.

IFMA is a production sharing contract between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and an applicant granting the latter “the exclusive right to develop, manage, protect and utilize a specified area of forest land or forest resources” for a renewable period of 25 years.

But Morales said, IFMAs are “actually logging permits disguised as reforestation program which are exempted under the so-called log ban policy of the government.”

Morales said among the 16 IFMAs, the biggest “logging permit” was granted to Matuguina Integrated Wood Products Incorporated with an area of 27,761.39 hectares in the towns of Baganga and Caraga. The second biggest was awarded to Picop Resources Incorporated with 14,466 hectares in Baganga and Cateel and the La Fortuna Mahogany Incorporated with 10,873 hectares.

“President Aquino is turning a blind eye on IFMAs which seems to exonerate the big commercial loggers from their accountabilities to the people and environment,” Morales pointed out.

Panalipdan said that it was during the regime of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that Davao Oriental, particularly the towns of Baganga and Cateel, were declared as the new timber capital after a killer mudslide hit Sierra Madre in Luzon that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 poor peasants and indigenous peoples in 2004.

“The Aquino regime is continuing the policy of Arroyo by allowing big logging companies to continue their operations in Davao Oriental until 2034,” Morales said.

The group is campaigning for a genuine and comprehensive reforestation program to replace IFMA which is being used by big and commercial loggers.

Morales said they are advocating for rain-forestation farming which involves the propagation and growing of indigenous and endemic species of forest and fruit trees.

Rain-forestation, according to Panalipdan, will increase the forest cover in southern Mindanao and will decrease the region’s vulnerability from extreme weather events brought about by a changing climate.

“Another Sendong already happened in our midst and it could happen again,” Morales warned, adding that the government has not learned from last year’s tragedy because it continues to “impose anti-people and anti-environment policies on extractive activities.” (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)

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