N E W S
Sarangans gather signatures vs. forestry law violators
Provincial Information Office, 5 December 2002
Inspecting Sarangani's forests. Photo: Jun Ramos / PIO

MAITUM, Sarangani -- People’s organizations kicked off a signature campaign today for environment secretary Elisea Gozon to act on the “violation of forestry laws and regulations” of the Zion Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative (Zifamulco) and the “failure” of local environment officers to “closely supervise (its) timber harvesting operation.”

Zifamulco, a holder of community-based forest management (CBFM) agreement awarded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has allegedly cut hundreds of trees outside its CBFM area.

In a three-page open letter addressed to Gozon, the Save Pangi River Watershed Movement, Maitum Irrigators Association, and Concerned Citizens of Maitum cited the findings of a DENR regional office investigating team that Zifamulco violated the agreement.

The team reported that “on the basis of GPS (global positioning system) reading conducted, Zifamulco had indeed operated outside its CBFM area… Said area is confirmed within the watershed area of Barangay New La Union and outlying vicinities.”

“The investigating team recommended that Zifamulco management be required to explain satisfactorily why their lease agreement will not be cancelled for violation of forestry laws and regulations,” the open letter said.

“Likewise, the CENRO (Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Mamerto Cardenas) of Kiamba, Sarangani was required to explain his failure to closely supervise the timber harvesting operation of ZIFAMULCO which led to cutting outside its CBFM area,” it added.

Among other findings, the team also confirmed that Zifamulco has “no designated area where timber harvesting will be confined, for an effective control and supervision.”

Reporters in a logging area. Photo: Jun Ramos / PIO

Barangay New La Union officials and residents earlier complained of Zifamulco’s “encroachment” into their watershed area in sitio Datal Ibang, where the cooperative allegedly cut 100 trees. Zifamulco had also reportedly cut some 241 trees more at an area contested by New La Union as its own.

“These acts are blatant violation of the CBFM agreement and a wanton disregard of DENR Administrative Order 2000-29,” the open letter said.

The AO regulates the harvesting and utilization of forest products within CBFM areas.

The people’s organizations challenged the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office and CENRO to open to the public Zifamulco’s monthly report for record, monitoring and evaluation, and to furnish concerned local government units with copies of collection reports and records of forest charges derived from the resources extracted in the CBFMA area.

“We demand the strict implementation of DENR Administrative Order 2000-29 and existing forestry rules and regulations,” the open letter said. “We are wary of a whitewash because several investigations have been conducted by the local DENR but we have not seen substantial results.”

The petitioners also asked Gozon, a noted environmentalist expert who replaced DENR secretary Heherson Alvarez last week, to punish the “guilty parties.”

“We fear that the destruction of watersheds may soon dry up our sources of potable water and worst, and may God forbid, cause flashfloods that may destroy lives and property,” they said.