Monday, February 7, 2011

Palace solicits backing from environmentalist groups over log ban

With the ongoing protests of woodcutters against Executive Order (EO) 23 which imposes a log ban in all natural and residual forests nationwide, the Palace is wondering why environmentalist groups have not supported the move of President Aquino concerning the environment and the future generations.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told the state-run radio dzRB that what they are concerned about right now is the preservation and protection of the environment, more than business. “And I’m wondering where are the environmentalists groups here, why are they not supporting this move?” Lacierda asked.

He added that the President has taken a move on the log ban, and this is for the future. “Now, if there is any concern for the business, I think this should be taken in the perspective of what are we doing with the environment,” Lacierda said.

He also noted that for year 2010 alone, the natural calamity caused by deforestation reached to the loss of 36 lives, 32 others were injured, thousands of families were displaced, and estimated damage cost of P142 million to P306 million.

The presidential spokesman also said that there is still a great misunderstanding on the EO, noting that it is not a total log ban but a mere protection of the natural and residual forests. “There’s still around 400,000 hectares of forest that can be logged, with respect to plantation forest. This is our responsibility and the present generation has the responsibility to preserve and protect the forest for our future generations,” he said.

Last week, the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA) objected the implementation of EO 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force. It said it may lose about P30 billion in investments should the government push through with its imposition of a nationwide log ban.

Lacierda said if there is a concern against the Executive Order, the group could set up a meeting depending on the availability of the President, further noting that their right now is to make sure the environment is protected first and foremost before any business decision.

The Malacañang official said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje had talked to a certain association and a member of the Liberal Party explaining to them that the log ban is applied with regard to the natural and residual forests, but logging will be continued in the scheme of plantation forest.

“I’m not sure if Secretary Paje has consulted with them (PWPA). I understand that there were discussions with Secretary Paje when we were discussing this on the final review on the EO. I understand that...some decisions, representations were made with him. But the decision has been made.There will be log ban insofar as the natural and residual forests are concerned. It has to be protected, it has to be maintained, this is ours, in the words of the Supreme Court case, this is an intergeneration responsibility on our part,” he explained.

The EO takes into account with businesses as there were discussions made prior to the implementation of the log ban, and decision was made to maintain the plantation forests which would allow them to log those in the plantation forest but insofar as natural forest and residual forest, they have to be protected and allow them to grow again because there is much deforestation.

Last Saturday, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang said President Aquino has no intention to revoke Executive Order 23 which imposes a log ban in all natural and residual forests nationwide though there were objections from the PWPA.

Carandang, however, clarified that Aquino’s EO 23 does not necessarily stop wood companies from logging trees for as long as they would comply with all the regulations set by the government regarding this particular activity which he said “it’s more of a restriction on logging — very comprehensive restriction on logging.” He added that the President was aware of these contentions by the wood-producing companies before he signed EO 23 last Thursday but stood firm on his directive because he wanted to invest on the country’s future by taking care of its environment.

The EO 23 was released last Thursday as part of the efforts his administration is taking to mitigate the glaring impact of climate change that often result to flash floods stemming from the relentless cutting of logs that belong to the country’s natural and residual forests nationwide.

It instructed the DENR to strictly implement a forest certification system in accordance with the United Nations standards and guidelines so as to ascertain the sustainability of legal sources and chain of custody of timber and wood products nationwide.

Meanwhile, last Friday, Aquino ordered the DENR to impose the same degree of restriction on mining firms by suspending all large-scale mining applications while a review of all pending and inactive mining claims is yet to be accomplished until the end of the year.


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