Thursday, September 30, 2010

Logging goes on unabated in Sierra Madre, says tribe chief

A tribal leader in Sierra Madre in northern Quezon warned
that more disasters were bound to happen if rampant illegal logging in
the country’s last forest frontier was not stopped.

“There will be more ‘Ondoys’ to come … if the government continues to
ignore Ondoy’s grim warning,” said Ramcey Astoveza, an Agta tribal

He said “if the indiscriminate cutting of trees in Sierra Madre
continues, flash floods will forever be the ‘demonic twin’ of every
major storm that will hit Metro Manila and provinces surrounding the
forest mountain.”

Astoveza said time was running out for President Benigno Aquino III to
act decisively before it’s too late for the forests of Sierra Madre.

He said a total log ban was needed in the mountains.

He urged the government to tap the indigenous people in its war
against illegal loggers.

“We’re more than willing to help because it’s a matter of life and
death for us,” Astoveza said.

He said a year after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” struck, left Metro Manila
and neighboring provinces submerged in water and killed hundreds of
people, “it’s business as usual for forest rapists.”

Fr. Pete Montallana shared the desperation of the mountain tribe leader.

“The same people are basically still in place. No systematic effort to
weed them out,” he said in a separate phone interview.

Dismayed by the inaction of the government, Montallana reported that
Task Force Sierra Madre, a forest watchdog based in the Prelature of
Infanta, has withdrawn from Metro-REINA (Real-Infanta-General Nakar)
Multisectoral Forest Management initiated by the government to protect
the forest.

“It is not doing its task. The destruction of Sierra Madre is becoming
more widespread,” the priest said.

Nap Buendicho, Agta tribal governor, welcomed the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) move to stop the issuance of
new logging permits but urged the government to intensify its drive
against illegal loggers.

“What should be seriously addressed by the DENR are the rampant
illegal logging activities. Legal loggers operate within the ambit of
the law but forest criminals are different. They operate outside the
law with impunity,” Buendicho said in an earlier interview.

Buendicho challenged Quezon officials to spearhead a serious and
sustained campaign against illegal logging.

Quezon Gov. David Suarez has vowed to plant a million trees in
different places, particularly in the denuded portions of the Sierra
Madre Mountains.


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