DAVAO CITY—Operations against illegal logging continue, leading to the seizure on Friday of at least 18 container vans packed with hot lumber at a major port in this city.
The National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force seized the container vans at Sasa Wharf following the seizure of dozens of container vans with illegal lumber in Manila recently.
Louie Ceniza, intelligence officer of the task force, said the seized container vans here could be part of a bigger shipment of illegal lumber destined for Manila.
Authorities stepped up the campaign against logging after an angry President Aquino, during the anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), declared war on logging syndicates, saying an executive order that he issued putting a stop to all forms of commercial logging is being challenged by logging syndicates.
The President said he was “accepting the dare” of the syndicates.
Last week, 55 container vans of hot lumber shipped from Davao were intercepted at North Harbor in Manila.
Ceniza said the seized lumber on Friday was estimated to be worth at least P4 million.
“The joint operation was a follow up to the one in Manila. The team will continue with the investigation and trace the consignees of the confiscated lumber,” Ceniza said.
Following the President’s statement on logging, authorities intensified the government’s campaign against illegal logging, focusing on logging syndicates operating in Southern Mindanao and Caraga.
More than 30 officials of the DENR in the two regions have been fired after Mr. Aquino said in his DENR speech that he knew of the connivance between logging syndicates and some DENR officials.
The environment group Panalipdan, however, said the sacking of the DENR officials in Mindanao did not translate into “pogi points” for the President.
Francis Morales, a leader of Panalipdan, said if the President really wanted to make a difference, he should start by removing Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
Morales said the government’s campaign to protect the environment would not be effective if only the small fry were removed from office.
Ann Fuertes, executive director of the group Interface for Development Interventions, said her group was “happy” that there was an investigation going on and that it hoped justice would prevail for the environment and for innocent people.
“It is high time that we strengthen our monitoring system, to involve the barangays and the local communities. Customs [officials] should be investigated, too, and be involved in the monitoring,” she said. (Ayan Mellejor and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao)