Sunday, January 30, 2011

Church group to Aquino: Total log ban answer to forest woes

A Church-backed network of groups protesting the continued cutting of trees is urging President Aquino to impose a total ban on commercial logging and cancel all logging licenses that it said have become “façades for illegal logging.”

In a statement sent by e-mail on Tuesday, the Save Sierra Network (SSN) asked Mr. Aquino to take what could be his boldest step yet on environmental protection and cancel all logging licenses that the government has issued.

SSN is a group that includes two Catholic bishops, priests, nuns, indigenous people and environmentalist groups.

In a statement, SSN said radical solutions were needed to put a stop to continued forest destruction in the Philippines. The statement was signed by Infanta Bishop Rolando Tria-Tirona, Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg and 18 representatives from various organizations demanding a complete stop to logging.

“The massive flooding and landslides in different parts of the country focused the nation’s attention on the urgent need to address climate change,” the group said.

SSN said alternative forms of livelihood should be given to workers in the logging industry and charcoal makers to free them from bondage to logging syndicates that connive with government officials.

It also proposed the creation of forest protection councils in every local government unit and the implementation of a massive reforestation program.

Lastly, the group asked Mr. Aquino to remove corrupt officials and employees at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The leader of a campaign to stop logging in one of the most logged over areas in the country, Sierra Madre, said people fighting logging in the mountain range are now being hunted down by private armies working for logging syndicates.

Fr. Pete Montallana, of the Prelature of Infanta in northern Quezon, said one of his informers is now on the run from armed goons hired by illegal loggers.

Montallana said a climate of fear is now prevailing in Sierra Madre following a series of successful antilogging operations by his group, Task Force Sierra Madre, and government agents.

Montallana said loggers’ goons are targeting informers because the loggers know that without the informers, “we cannot continue with our campaign to save Sierra Madre.”

People who benefit from logging in Sierra Madre are increasingly hostile to anyone perceived to be campaigning against logging.

“The constant mantra is feed us and we will stop cutting trees,” he said.

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