Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Environmentalists to P-Noy: Stop destruction of Sierra Madre

Bulacan environmentalists and clergymen from the provinces of Quezon and Aurora have urged President Aquino to act swiftly and stop the unabated rape of the Sierra Madre mountains.

In an open letter released last Thursday, Fr. Pete Montallana, parish administrator of Dingalan and Umiray towns in Aurora, listed recent cases of rampant small- and large-scale logging in the Sierra Madre.

The latest was on Jan. 10 when he was informed by environmentalists from General Nakar, Quezon that about 10,000 logs were cut in Umiray and were ready for transport, but this was prevented by huge waves on the country’s eastern seaboard.

But this was not the only time when illegal activities were observed in the Sierra Madre, according to Montallana.

He said logging and charcoal making in Dingalan, Aurora and Gen. Nakar towns in Quezon had been reported before but the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR) failed to act on this.

Montallana said the Task Force Sierra Madre had written so many letters before, including open letters to Malacañang.

“Environmentalists have welcomed your administration with much hope that things would finally change at the DENR. But as far as the destruction of the forests in the Sierra Madre is concerned it has been business as usual,” Montallana said in an open letter to Aquino.

“With one big difference – people have been deceived that logging has stopped with so many press releases from the DENR regarding its anti-corruption campaigns by installing surveillance cameras in offices, removing checkpoints, reporting confiscations of logs and giving confiscated logs to schools,” he added.
Montellana urged the President to finally put a stop to the destruction of the Sierra Madre by implementing a total log ban or stopping the permit of the San Roque Saw Mill.

“These may be good but DENR has not really addressed the corruption inside itself. If only there were a big camera in the Sierra Madre, then the whole country would know the real score regarding the destruction of the forests. The big question is this, can DENR heal itself?” he said.

The Sierra Madre Environmental Council (SMEC) based in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan echoed the same sentiment.

Led by Bro. Martin Francisco, the SMEC has been conducting an awareness campaign against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre by taking photographs and posting them on Facebook, a popular social networking site.

In a recent interview, Francisco said that unless the President cleanses the ranks of the DENR, a meaningful program will remain remote.

Montallana’s Save Sierra Madre Network also demanded a total log ban.

Montellana said, “What is happening now in the world should so alarm us that the government should even consider the declaration of the total log ban. It has to choose between the welfare of the people and the income of financiers. Should we continue to destroy our forests? At what price?”

He added: “The government has to address urgently, too, the issue of poverty of the poor loggers and charcoal makers who are taken advantage of by the financiers and by unscrupulous government officials.”

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