Curbing illegal logging and corruption as top environmental agenda of Aquino administration - Sec. Paje

A December 29, 2010 press release prepared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today stressed that the campaign against illegal logging and corruption remain a top priority of the Aquino administration.

Paje said, “The DENR has not wavered in its fight against illegal logging and other environmental law violations. Despite the threat and harassment, the government is making headways against illegal logging.”

In July of this year, Paje said the DENR has launched “OPLAN KALASANGAN” in the timber-rich regions of Cagayan Valley and Eastern Mindanao, which resulted in the confiscation of 14,760 pieces of illegally-sourced timber with a volume of 2,924,694.98 board feet. These illegally sourced forest products were later on donated to the Department of Education and to local government units.
To curb graft and corruption reportedly committed in forestry checkpoints, the DENR has rationalized the number of checkpoints and reduced to the most strategic locations. As of October 2010, a total of 157 checkpoints have been disestablished nationwide, with only 117 “essential” checkpoints remaining.

But at the same time, the DENR chief said the government is not oblivious to the hazards that forest protection officers are faced with in the performance of their duties. “We know very well the hazards being faced by our own people in the field; that they are actually playing with “kamatayan” every time they are sent out to check on reports of illegal logging incidences. But then, this is our job. And I genuinely appreciate our field people, including those of well-meaning environmental groups, who continue to believe in our mission to protect our environment not only for this generation but also for generations of Filipinos that will come after us,” said Paje.
But the threat to the lives of forest rangers is real that need to be addressed head on. For this, Paje expressed appreciation for Malacanang’s move to beef up the department’s anti-illegal logging task force with police and military assistance. He likewise bared the appointment of retired Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, whose military background, according to him, would be a “big plus” in strengthening the DENR’s Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force.

“The DENR is a civilian agency, and our officers have only papers or documents to show when they check on reported illegal acts. Suffice it to say, they are an easy target of illegal loggers who are not only fully armed but also have the latest in communication technologies,” Paje said.

Paje has earlier reshuffled three of his top officials in Regions 7, 10 and 13 of their posts, but said it is part of the DENR’s continuing organizational development. “The reshuffling of field officials is not only a matter of cleansing the ranks but also as part of the continuing effort of management to improve the managerial capabilities of our field people,” Paje explained.