President Rody Duterte ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last night to implement the ban on logging in the country without any exemptions.
The President issued the order during the en banc meeting of the Climate Change Commission where I brought up the massive floodings in the different river basins of Mindanao resulting from denuded mountains and heavily-silted rivers.
“Hindi ba total log ban na tayo? Stop all logging operations with no exemptions,” President Duterte told DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, who admitted that in spite of the total logging ban in the country, several companies were still given licenses to cut down trees under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) contracts awarded by the agency.
In my recent trip to Mindanao to assess the extent of the damage caused by heavy flooding the Davao Provinces, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and the Cotabato River Basin, local officials admitted that the unabated cutting of trees in the mountains and watersheds of the river basins has resulted in flash floods in recent years.
Mayor Edwin Elorde of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, told me that when the forests in the mountain ranges of Davao and Agusan were thick and lush, the flood waters would cascade down the plains at least two weeks after heavy rains.
President Duterte said he was giving DENR Secretary Lopez the full authority to implement the total log ban.
A tri-partite convergence committee composed of DENR, the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Interior and Local Government was formed to formulate the guidelines in the implementation of a tougher government action against illegal logging.
I emphasized during the discussion that guidelines should be clear on how to treat the cutting of trees planted by farmers in their farmlands for their future use.
Citing my own case where I planted Mahogany Trees in my farm in 1993 and my plan to use some of the trees to repair my farm house, I argued that banning the cutting of trees planted by farmers themselves would be counterproductive because it would discourage people from planting trees.
The planting and harvesting of pulp and paper trees like Falcata is also a major source of livelihood for poor families in the Davao and Caraga Regions.
Sec. Lopez supported my argument and cited the case of Finland where efficient forest management practices allow people to make use of the trees they planted.
Finland has the most well-maintained forests anywhere in the world.
The Tri-Partite Committee will meet on Monday, Feb. 6, to formulate the guidelines on the total logging ban ordered by President Duterte and design programs which would ensure the efficient reforestation of the denuded watersheds in the country.