Philippines: Environment Secretary Atienza get tough policy is panned

Government Corruption is one of many problems related to illegal
logging. Most difficult about this type of corruption is that
governments are so vast that they can promise to get tough from the
highest levels, even set up ways of proving they are cracking down,
yet at lower levels of government too often nothing changes. Forest
activism in the Philippines is more evolved than anywhere else in SE
Asia. So if even they are still having these problems, we have a long
ways to go elsewhere in the region. –Editor, Forest Policy Research

Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza of his “one-strike policy” of
dismissing erring regional officials was met with sarcasm by
environmentalist groups. “That’s blatant propaganda. It’s an empty
threat. Nothing will come out of it,” Fr. Pete Montallana, chair of
Task Force Sierra Madre, a Church-based forest watchdog, said in a
phone interview Friday. Joey Papa, president of environmentalist group
Bangon Kalikasan Movement said Atienza’s warning was the “usual PR
stunt.” “Illegal logging is prevalent in all parts of the country,
from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. If the good Secretary is serious in
implementing his new policy, only the regional head of the DENR in the
National Capital region will remain because there is no forest to rape
in Metro Manila,” said environmentalist lawyer Shiela de Leon,
TK-Southern Tagalog executive director, in a separate telephone
interview. On Thursday, Atienza announced his “one-strike policy”
which he said would lead to the immediate removal of regional
officials in areas where illegal logging and other environmental
crimes are confirmed to exist. Atienza announced the policy amid the
reported resurgence of illegal logging in Sierra Madre as a result of
connivance between corrupt DENR men and illegal loggers. Montallana
alleged that corruption in the DENR has been “perfected” by
unscrupulous officials and employees. “There’s a well-entrenched
syndicate in every layer of DENR offices. We have submitted evidence
of the shenanigans of corrupt DENR men several times but nothing
happened. There’s one incident in which an investigation we initiated
was almost finished then suddenly the probe was stopped for no reason
at all,” he said. “Corruption is endemic in the DENR. Getting rid of
its corrupt personnel is a long shot. I wish him (Atienza) good luck,”
the priest said.

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