To discuss about the marching orders of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez especially on the stopping of illegal logging activities in every regions, DENR-XI Regional Director Ruth M. Tawantawan recently convened all the members of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) and asked for their support and assistance on the Department's efforts to impede all illegal logging activities in Region XI.
The meeting aims to come up with new strategies and tactics on how to stop illegal logging activities in the region most especially in Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley Province and Davao del Norte as these provinces have always been reported as having illegal logging activities.
Tawantawan said that the Department is very serious with the campaign the reason why she is seeking for AILTF's support and assistance in dealing with illegal logging problems. "This marching order was made because these illegal logging activities have already come to the attention of the President and unfortunately, Region XI is still seen as one of the illegal logging capital in the country. Under my stewardship, we will change that and hopefully with the assistance of the AILTF, we will make Region XI as a model region," she said.
She also revealed that all her Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (PENROs and CENROs) are only given one month by the Secretary to clean up their area of responsibilities from illegal logging activities or else they will be replaced.
In Talaingod, Davao del Norte however, she said that the People's Organizations (POs) assured her that there are no more illegal cutting of trees in the area. "During my recent visit there, I have talked to the POs and they assured me that they will not anymore allow any illegal cutting and transporting of trees in their area and I am holding on to that pronouncement they made," she added.
During the discussion, Major Ezra L. Balagtey of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) said they have always been supportive of DENR's Programs and Projects and they will continue to give assistance to the Department especially in its advocacy programs in the upland areas. He also requested the DENR to provide them with updated lists of Wood Processing Plants (WPPs) and lumber dealers which are operating legally in the region as well as maps of Region XI's Timberland and Alienable & Disposable areas.
On the other hand, Commanding Officer BGeneral Macairog S. Alberto of the 1001st Infantry Brigade stressed that AILTF will also be needing the assistance of the local government units most especially in the barangay level since they are the ones who can have first-hand information about the area and the community within. In response, Tawantawan assured that she will assign focal persons in every barangay to conduct intensive Information Campaigns in the area.
Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Marcia G. Isip also said that aside from the AILTF, all Deputized Environment and Natural Resources Officers (DENROs) will be tapped to help curb illegal logging activities in the region. DENROs are those volunteers from the barangay level like the communities and members of the different People's Organizations (POs).
Moreover, the need to protect the Davao Gulf, Mt. Hamiguitan Range and Wildlife Sanctuary (MHRWS) and Mt. Apo Natural Park (MANP) were also discussed during the meeting. Balagtey mentioned that there is already an Action Plan for the protection of the Davao Gulf which is in coordination of HARIBON and the local government units of Island Garden City of Samal.
With regards to MANP, DENR-XI will seek the assistance of the Prosecutors Office for the re-filing of the case against those illegal trekkers who climbed Mt. Apo last year despite the indefinite closure order of the Protected Area and Management Board (PAMB).
The creation of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force is spelled out under Executive Order No. 23 or the "Moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of trees in the natural and residual forests". One of its functions is to also assist in the discharge of its functions such as but not limited to the provision of administrative or technical assistance, logical support and detail of provision. EO 23 was signed last February 1, 2011.
Participants of the meeting were: DENR-XI; EastMinCOm; 10th Infantry (AGILA) Division; 1001st Infantry Brigade; 1003rd Infantry Brigade; 701st Infantry Brigade; 701st Infantry Brigade; Philippine Air Force-TOG XI; Philippine Navy-Naval Forces for Eastern Mindanao; Philippine Coast Guard-District of South Eastern Mindanao; National Bureau of Investigation-XI; Office of the Regional State Prosecutor for Region XI; Maritime Industry Authority-XI; Department of Interior and Local Government-XI; National Commission of Indigenous People-XI; Philippine Ports Authority and Bureau of Customs-Port of Davao and; Police Regional Office-XI