SAYS WWF P7M worth of logs seized in Sierra Madre
Posted June 8, 2009on:
P7M worth of logs seized in Sierra Madre
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 12:39:00 06/08/2009
Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Forest and forest management, Crime
MANILA, Philippines—About 300,000 board feet of lumber from Sierra Madre worth around P7.2 million was confiscated after combined units of Tanggol Kalikasan (Defend Nature), the Armed Forces, and the Isabela provincial government raided three lumber yards and log ponds in San Mariano town in Isabela.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) information officer Gregg Yan said most of the timber—white and red lawaan—had been processed into fine-cut boards by the lumber yards allegedly owned and operated by prominent local politicians and businessmen.
Since January, enforcement efforts in the hills surrounding the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park have yielded over 1 million board feet of illegal timber trusses or about 100 ten-wheeler truck loads of lumber worth P24 million, he said.
Yan described the local situation in Isabela as “tense” over the last month, as a Tanggol Kalikasan enforcement team which was returning from a confiscation effort involving 30,000 board feet of lumber was ambushed by armed men using M16s and M203 grenade launchers.
“Enforcement teams anticipate a further escalation of local tensions. Just recently, Sierra Madre conservation advocate Frank Talosig, mayor of Maconacon town in Isabela, was ambushed and shot in the nape in Tuguegarao City. Luckily, he survived and no one from the team was killed,” Yan said.
“The problems are systemic: politics, widespread corruption, and most importantly, poverty. Many of our stakeholders have been logging in the Sierra Madre for decades and find it hard to switch livelihoods. If we don’t stop this now, however, farming communities within the valley that depend on the water provided by the Sierra Madre shall suffer,” said Ed Tongson, WWF watershed program officer in Laguna, Romblon, and Isabela.
“Destruction of the forests shall destroy the watersheds leading to environmental concerns that in turn will spawn severe economic effects,” Tongson warned.
The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park has over 300,000 hectares of dipterocarp forest, watershed, and wildlife sanctuary—the largest remaining block of old-growth forest in the country that is home to 45 percent of plants and 153 animals endemic to the Philippines, said WWF.