Anti-illegal logging taskforce bares accomplishments

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EFFORTS TO curb illegal logging in Central Luzon last year resulted in the confiscation of at least 45,000 board feet of forest contraband worth P2 million, environment officials announced yesterday.

Thirteen illegal loggers were also convicted last year, bringing to 35 the total number of persons put behind bars since 2007.

Sofio Quintana, deputy director for forestry of the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the Regional Anti-illegal Logging Task Force (RAILTF) neutralized illegal logging “hotspots” throughout the region by engaging forest rangers in a 24-hour monitoring and patrol work.

RAILTF is chaired by the DENR and co-chaired by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), local police, religious and socio-civic organizations and the media as members. 

Holders of Socialized Industrial Forest Management Agreement (SIFMA) and Industrial Forest Management of Agreement (IFMA) were also required to step up their forest protection campaign and coordinate closely with operatives of RAILTF, he added.

DENR forest protection officers also manned eight permanent monitoring centers in the region to check the movement of forest products from illegal logging “hotspots”.

The DENR reported that only eight “hotspot” areas in the region remain, from a high of 69 in 2010.

A total of 181 forest guards were placed on “red alert” and instructed to do round-the-clock monitoring of some 480,000 ha of forests throughout Central Luzon.

Last year, the DENR expanded the RAILTF membership to include the Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Customs, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).     

“The idea is to lay down a well-entrenched network among various government agencies to synchronize law enforcement efforts, share information and resources, and catch the big fish in illegal logging,” Quintana explained.

Seven associations of wood-based industries and 15 multi-sectoral forest protection committees throughout the region complement the anti-illegal logging campaign of the RAILTF.

A total of 102 RAILTF members have also undergone intensive training on forest protection and law enforcement work to prepare them for the bigger task of going after well-financed illegal logging syndicates.