Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 28 August 18 - 24, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
World’s Rare Trees in RP’s Biggest Forest Massacre
of the world’s rare trees are found in Negros Occidental, a province in
central Philippines with a dwindling forest cover. But forest poachers – whose
masterminds reportedly include local politicians – have trained their sights
on the province’s only forest reserve. The country’s biggest forest massacre
in years took place days ago.
EDGAR CADAGAT and KARL OMBION
City - All bad things do not necessarily come to end. This was illustrated by
what Negrenses now say as the country's biggest timber massacre in recent
by Task Force Ilahas (TFI) several days ago in Don Salvador Benedicto, a
mountain town in northern Negros, were 354,000 board feet of giant trees - many
already sawn to sizes – ready to be sold. Two weeks later, after an aerial
survey, the task force found 50,000 more board feet of cut timber bringing the
total to more than 404,000 board feet worth P76 million.
Force Ilahas or Task Force Wild Fowl was organized by the Negros Occidental
provincial government to monitor and run after illegal loggers and other
environmental despoilers in Negros. The task force is headed by Sr. Insp.
officials, environmentalists and the public were reportedly shocked by the
magnitude of forest destruction in the town, part of the 35,000-hectare wide
Northern Negros Forest Reserve (NNFR). The reserve, which includes the forest
canopy of Don Salvador Benedicto, serves as the watershed of several towns and
cities in northern and central Negros.
had been previous reports of large-scale timber poaching activities in the town.
But anti-illegal logging campaigners could hardly come up with a haul as big as
the recent one.
a taped message two weeks ago, Fr. Frank Fernandez, who is believed to be the
head of the revolutionary movement on Negros Island, accused the provincial
government headed by Governor Joseph Marañon, for treating illegal loggers with
kid gloves. Fernandez named a former mayor of Don Salvador Benedicto as the No.
1 timber poacher in the area.
later, Bantay-Bukid Brigade (Timber Watch) members exposed illegal logging in
Bagong Silang, a far-off town village (population: 20,000). TFI members later
held four men who were carrying axes and chainsaws.
a town visit, Marañon instructed Señoron to conduct a closer monitoring of
illegal logging in the area.
of monitoring, capped by aerial surveys, bore fruit with Señoron and a group of
policemen and environment personnel seizing some 405,000 board feet of cut
timber. The haul consisted mainly of indigenous hardwood species including red
lauaan, almaciga, almond, tanguile and others, not found anywhere in most parts
of the world.
composite group of TFI operatives and DENR men said that there could be more
trees felled in a 60-hectare area where, from the air, they saw patches of
of the indigenous native species spared by a turn-of-the century logging firm
established by an American businessman named Nicholas, were said to be almost
80-years old. It would take from 30-50 years for the same species of trees to be
grown, foresters said.
and Raoul Geollegue, regional director of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, vowed to throw the books at the masterminds of the largest
timber poaching in the province's history.
the Negros Occidental provincial board passed a resolution asking DENR Secretary
Heherson Alvarez to punish erring personnel of the agency.
environmentalists had earlier revealed that of the 7% forest cover left in the
province, 4% were primary growth and 3% second or third-growth forests.
In the province, the political career of many local executives could rise and fall on environment issues. Thus, attention continues to be riveted on the action of government officials on the timber poaching case in Don Salvador Benedicto and other northern towns. Bulatlat.com/Cobra-Ans