Philippines: Illegal loggers use Sierra Madre road construction project to smuggle logs

LUCENA CITY – A road project that traverses Sierra Madre may have
provided easy access to virgin forests to illegal loggers, an
environment official said. Nilo Tamoria, regional executive director
of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Calabarzon
(Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), said the road project stretches
from the Sumulong Highway in Rizal and Laguna to Infanta, Quezon. The
Marikina-Infanta road project passes along the slopes of Sierra Madre.
Tamoria said he received intelligence reports that illegal loggers
transport undocumented lumber in the guise of loading construction
materials for the road project.

Tamoria said hot logs from Sierra
Madre used to be smuggled out through Tanay but it was stopped with
the help of the DENR, military and multi-sectoral groups. He said the
DENR welcomes calls to investigate alleged corruption in DENR offices
related to logging. “My office is more than willing to extend its full
cooperation,” Tamoria said. Tamoria said the Task Force Sierra Madre
(TFSM), a multi-sectoral anti-illegal logging watchdog, didn’t need
the go-signal of the DENR to investigate corruption in the government
agency. “Since they are an independent body, they no longer need to
ask permission from us,” he said. The TFSM alleged that corrupt DENR
personnel were in connivance with illegal loggers in Sierra Madre. Fr.
Pete Montallana, TFSM chair, said his group needed DENR cooperation,
however. “How can we initiate an in-depth probe when we don’t have the
official authority and power? We will just be given the usual
turnaround in the DENR offices which we want investigated,” Montallana
said. Tamoria said DENR operatives were able to seize 229 cubic meters
of illegally cut forest products, 22 units of vehicles used in the
transport of illegal forest products and one chain saw.

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