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Philippines: Drive vs illegal logging

Source:  Copyright 2006, Malaya
Date:  May 5, 2006
Byline:  Reinir Padua
Original URL: Status DEAD

UNLESS government gets its act together on forest use and protection, efforts to stop illegal logging are doomed, the environmental group Greenpeace yesterday said.

The group made the warning when it released a report titled "Sierra Madre under threat: a close look at illegal logging in one of the Philippines’ last remaining old growth forests."

"The schizophrenic policy and programs on forest use and protection being carried out by the government are to blame for the dismal failure of anti-illegal logging operations, particularly in the Sierra Madre," said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaign director.

He said while there is a standing policy against logging operations in the Sierra Madre, the Department of Trade and Industry and some local government units are "strongly pushing for the continuing growth of the furniture industry in the region."

He said these agencies are "abetting the destruction of what counts as among the last remaining intact, old-growth forest areas in the country."

"Illegal logging has been a constant plague in the Northern Sierra Madre Mountain Range, which was declared protected in 1992. Aside from being one of the country’s last remaining small patches of old growth forests, it is home to a number of protected and endemic wildlife species. Unfortunately, the park is also a gold mine to illegal loggers after the prized hardwood narra," the report said.

The report is a result of an investigation by a Greenpeace research team.

The team took photos and video of logged-out areas along river banks and mountain slopes, as well as logging roads, camps, and cultivated agricultural areas within the protected natural park.

The team also interviewed members of the Agta tribe on the modus operandi of illegal loggers and the rampant corruption among government men.

The report said Cagayan Valley’s profitable furniture industry is a major player in the illegal timber trade.

It said there are 20,000 wood furniture producers in Cagayan Valley, which operate on 12-month cycles and require a constant supply of narra and other hardwood that cannot be acquired legally.

The group estimated that close to 97 percent of the Philippines’ original forest cover has been logged.

"Today, less than 3 percent of Philippine ancient forests remain in small, scattered patches," it said.

It said the Asian Development Bank, in its key indicators for 2005, reported that the Philippines has the worst record of preserving its forests among Asian countries.

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