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Isabela gov sees big job ahead vs illegal logging

August 19, 2008 3:03pm

ILAGAN, Isabela – Governor Grace Padaca said here that her powers as governor might not be enough to counter the big-time illegal logging syndicates operating in the province, saying that she had received information that some groups are out to kill her and other environmental activists.

Padaca along with members of Isabelas’ reactivated anti-illegal task force, recently conducted an aerial survey along the Sierra Madre Mountain range to assess damage on Isabela’s forest cover.

The areas surveyed were of San Agustin, Jones and San Mariano, the latter is notorious for being a logging hotspot dating from the early 60’s to the 70’s.

However, timber companies have slowly pulled out of the area due to the government’s crack down on big-time logging and non-renewal of concessions in the 90’s.

The aerial survey was the offshoot of incessant complaints and reports coming from concerned citizens of the province, Church and various organizations on the resumption of illegal logging activities in the vast Sierra Madre biodiversity corridor, a government protected area better known as Sierra Madre National Park.

Reports from the province’s pro-environment organizations and anti-illegal logging task force have shown that the resurgence of the illegal cutting of trees in recent years has become brazen.

Padaca said, “There’s about a million board feet down there ready for commercial distribution but I can surmise that it can be more than that, in fact it can be ten times bigger or even a hundred times more, its mind boggling."

“This is way beyond my powers as governor," She deplored even if she has been recently authorized by Environment secretary Joselito Atienza to arrest and file cases against illegal loggers.

“Prominent personalities in and outside the province that are behind this illegal activities are right now after our necks, they have the money and they are capable of killing people." She said.

This as she and an environmental activist priest Fr. John Couvreur, head of the Church’s ecology desk uncovered information that a there is a plot to silence both of them by killers hired and financed by organized big-time logging syndicates.

The Sierra Madre Mountain is one of the country’s remaining heavily forested areas but is also widely threatened by uncontrolled logging activities. On the other hand, Isabela still accounts to about 600,000 hectares of Cagayan Valley region’s 900,000 hectares of forest cover.

Meanwhile, Couvreur and other environmental activists went on a one-day hunger strike at the Church compound in San Mariano over the weekend.

“This is not only to show our support to our governor but a call to every Filipino to be aware of the perils of environmental destruction. We also call the attention of concerned government agencies to help us in this struggle." He said. - Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV