Philippines: Isabela Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo makes forest defense her centerpiece program

“If there are no trees, there will be no forest. If there are no
forests, there will be no water. And if there is no water, no farm
crop will survive.” Isabela Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca said this
in her State of the Province Address, as she scored anew the illegal
logging activities prevalent in the province. She said the provincial
government’s drive against timber poaching is her centerpiece program.

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Padaca said politicians who favor logging use the proceeds for
illegal logging to finance their political machinery. “Obsession is
more paralyzing than polio,” Padaca, a 45-year-old polio victim, said.
Padaca’s tirades came as Isabela Bishop Joseph Nacua and the parish
priests in the towns of Jones, San Agustin, San Guillermo, San
Mariano, Cauayan City, Benito Soliven, Ilagan, and Palanan have been
deputized by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza as special agents to
implement the anti-illegal logging drive of the government. Atienza’s
deputation would enable the priests to arrest villagers caught in the
act of engaging in illegal logging in their areas.

Padaca also announced forest rehabilitation projects for this year such as the
150-hectare mega-nursery under the Clinton Global Initiatives of the
Energy Development Corporation and the Ilagan watershed rehabilitation
project of Coca-Cola Philippines. She reported log confiscation of
96,000 board feet by the provincial government’s anti-illegal logging
task force in 2006 and 500,000 board feet when the task force was
revived in 2008.

Padaca lauded Roman Catholic priests, who have been
active in environment protection campaigns, the latest was the
anti-illegal logging forum and prayer rally on January 24 with about
500 devotees. In his open letter to parishioners, Nacua urged Isabela
residents “to show our concern on the issue of illegal logging that
has contributed to the decimation of our forest resources.” The
provincial government’s task force seized about 500,000-board-foot
logs last year. The center of illegal logging, the Northern Sierra
Madre Natural Park that straddles along Dinapigue, Palanan, Maconacon,
Divilacan, San Mariano, Ilagan, San Pablo, Cabagan, Santa Maria, and
Tumauini towns.

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