An Open Letter to President Arroyo and the Filipino People
Task Force Sierra Madre (TFSM)
An Open Letter to the President and the Filipino People
On Election and the Environment
HER EXCELLENCY GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace, Manila
Dear Madam President and the Filipino People:
We are writing this letter amidst the intense heat we have never experienced before even here in Infanta. We are also writing this letter aware of the sacrifice of Audy Angchangco who believed that DENR could still prevent the country from environmental destruction.
We still remember that right after the November 29, 2004 GREAT FLOOD, a disaster that devastated Metro REINA (Real-Infanta-Gen. Nakar), Northern Quezon, you yourself, Madam President, has personally declared A TOTAL LOG BAN not only here in Northern Quezon but also in the whole country. But we are saddened because despite our earnest effort to support your declaration of Total Log Ban Policy, DENR has never implemented it seriously.
Secretary Angelo Reyes has welcomed the formation of Metro Reina Multi Stakeholders Forest Management Council (or FMC for short). It is composed of the LGUs of Reina, Church people, Ngos and Pos, the military and the DENR and even those involved in the use of wood for living. The target of this FMC for one year has been that there be “no cutting/ no movement of timber outside metro reina except finished products from drifted logs/fallen trees which passed the scrutiny of the council“. (Letter to Mayor America: 10/4/06) TFSM actively supported the formation of FMC. We prioritized the environment despite our work and lack of funds unlike the DENR personnel who are paid by our taxes to protect our environment.
By middle of March 2007 we finally realized after so many experiences that DENR is more interested in defending loggers and people in wood industry. We hear that DENR personnel make big money but nobody is brave enough to come out in the open. We even discovered that the corrupt DENR personnel throughout the years have almost perfected a fool proof system of environmental destruction. We present to you our experiences which hopefully can help lead to weeding out corrupt DENR officials and overhauling our environmental laws so that such a system is dismantled.
1. Fact Finding Team Meetings Postponed Indefinitely
Our most traumatic experience with DENR is the postponement of the meetings of the Fact Finding Team (FFT). FFT was formed at the request of FMC by Sec. Angelo Reyes in Nov. 15, 2006 under Special Order No. 2006-962 to investigate the “continuous illegal cutting of timber within the Sierra Madre.” Audy Angchangco was an active member of the Team. Despite the obvious foot-dragging of Region IV regarding the release of important documents asked, FFT could have made important initial recommendations but the meetings were postponed indefinitely by the DENR national office in January 2007.
2. Approval of 15 ten-wheeler trucks of firewood transported in 8 days approved without the signature of requesting party
From Sept 8, 2006 to Sept 16, 2006 15 ten wheeler trucks each transporting 32 cu. m of firewood from Brgy. Ilog to Navotas, Metro Manila was approved upon the request of a certain Nenita Torres who claims to be a resident of Brgy. Tanauan, Real but who never signed the documents. The documents were signed by Arnulfo Galvez, Quirino Cadelina, Flor Morada, CENRO Antonio Diwa. The documents were almost an inch thick when we saw it.
3. Deceiving Adjudication Report
The military apprehended a van containing 1,928 bd. ft. of assorted dipterocarp species belonging to Emy Orozo. The Certificate of Transport Agreement given by DENR disclosed that the 182 pcs. are semi-finished products. Members of FMC inspected the lumber in Sept. 24, 2006 and found that there were fresh cut lumber inside.
Forester Morada in the adjudication hearing report to Region IV recommended release of the apprehended items deliberately not mentioning that there were fresh cut lumbers inside the van. When FMC insisted that they be given copy of the adjudication report, Morada said that only Region IV can divulge the said report. PENRO Ortiz also defended the report when he spoke at the Sanggunian Panlalawigan hearing. (Cf. Adjudication Hearing Report, Minutes of Sanggunian Panlalawigan - Lucena, Complaint Against PENRO Ortiz by FMC)
4. DENR legalizes undocumented lumber of Thelma Aumentado:
On January 13, 2006 the PNP, General Nakar, Quezon, apprehended two truck loads of undocumented lumber owned by Thelma Aumentado. When the case was filed in court. CENRO Antonio D. Diwa came up with papers legalizing the lumber paving the way for the release of the lumber. When asked for a copy of the documents, CENRO office claimed the documents were already forwarded to Region IV.
5. Unbelievable Case of Narra and Yakal Drifted to Polilio:
102 pcs. of Narra and Yakal with a total volume of 831 bd. ft intercepted by the military was certified as coming from retrieved/fallen uprooted trees brought about by November 29, 2004 in a certificate issued by FR Orantia dated April 24, 2006 at Polillo CENRO station. Narra and Yakal species submerged in water because their specific gravities are much denser than water and, more so, REINA is separated by Lamon Bay of about 22 km from the Municipality of Panukulan, in Polillo. The said lumber was released by Red Principe (Cf. Report by Lt. Teves)
6. Van apprehended and carnapped; recovered by military but released by RED:
Besta van bearing undocumented charcoal placed in the custody of Real CENRO in Casibo was carnapped according to security guard but recovered by military and released by Red Principe. (Cf. Report by Lt. Teves)
7. No Action on Reported Continuous Timber Poaching:
Reports on the continuous Timber Poaching were brought to the attention of DENR in the meeting of FMC. Reported poaching was seen in Sitio Makidata, Madulas, Baykuran of Barangay Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon. The loggers used Barangay Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal as exit point. The FMC meetings, attended by a representative of DENR, heard the reports in Dec. 19, 2006 by Lt. Escudero, early January 2007, again in February 2007 and even in March 2007.
Pressured by the insistence of FMC, the CENRO representative, Forester Flor Morada last March finally moved for an immediate on-the-spot investigation. FMC accepted to join. Despite its urgency and importance, the investigation amounted to nothing. Two reasons were given 1) Forester Morada has to be in the CENRO office then since the CENRO was not around. 2) Allegedly some media was going there already for an investigation but backed out. It is now May 2006 – thanks to the inaction, logging continuous.
The same poaching has been reported in Kiloloron, Real, Quezon and in Pandan and Lubayat of Real, Quezon and even in Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon. We have stopped reporting becauase it is futile. Logging will surely stop when Sierra Madre in Quezon would be as bald as in Tanay.
8. Useless Checkpoints:
Noticing that there were truck loads of lumber being transported, we wanted to strengthen the UP Llavac check point which we saw was a strategic exit point last October 2006. CENRO insisted that check points be in Banugao and Umiray which are outlaying barangays. Finally convinced of the urgency of the situation, the CENRO representative at the FMC, Forester Morada agreed to put it up the next day and challenged us to help. Despite our lack of resources we were able to present representatives. To our disappointment, CENRO Diwa turned down the activity and insisted that we be deputized first. That we could not understand since we were just there to witness – there were DENR personnel with us. What was the real reason?
9. Simply Ignoring the Issues:
We mention here several cases still that were simply ignored: 1) Kiln Drying Plant of Thelma Aumentado; 2) Narra lumber in Kawayan, Real reported last March 15, 2007; 3) Narra and other specie wood found in the premises of Combalicer Wood Shop by the FMC Validating team; 4) Stealing of 4,812 bd ft. of lumber in Kiloloron in a populous area at 7 in the morning. (Cf. Police report and annotation from Penro)
10. Breaking Agreement on Bided Logs:
FMC insisted that it be represented during the transport of bided logs amounting to 45,000 bd ft. in the presence of CENRO and PENRO to prevent any anomalous activities. Last March 11, 2007 and that was on a Sunday, the logs under the supervision of FR Benny were already being loaded without FMC’s knowledge. TFSM sent an urgent fax message to DENR national in March 14, 2007. It was only in March 23, 2007 that transport was suspended; half of the logs were gone!
Conclusion and Recommendations:
The data that we have presented to you and many others that we have not mentioned point out only to the truth of what one logger in Daraitan told an Agta from Baykuran: “ If DENR cannot stop us, who are you to be able to do so”
While we are happy that Sec. Reyes has formed the NAECTAF, after the raid in Baykuran and Pagsangahan, logging simply continued. We found out later that it was a DENR official who told the logger in Magsaysay to remove the bonnet of the asset of NAECTAF and consequently the logger threatened the asset. It is possible that this is what happened too to Audy Angchongco?
If the government is sincere in protecting the environment for the future and even for us now who suffering from the evils effects of globalization it has to do something fast and it should have the political will to do so. We recommend the following:
1. Relevant to the Fact Finding Committee created by the DENR-Secretary, we respectfully request for a thorough investigation be conducted on the above-mentioned incidents and to pursue further the reason behind the continuous logging so as to bring responsible public officials to the court of justice. This should be composed of people with credibility and not employed within DENR
2. We also recommend that while the investigation is being conducted, a preventive suspension be issued so as to avoid undue influence that could be exerted in the conduct of administrative investigation.
3. We recommend especially citation for Lt. Teves and Lt. Escudero for their efforts to protect the environment.
4. Finally, we ask the Filipino people, following the lead of Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales that they take into consideration the environment during this election. TFSM in particular ask the people not to elect candidates who are not helping the conservation, restoration and protection of our environment. Do not elect candidates who support the mega dams in Laiban and Kanan B1 dam whether they are national or local candidates. These dams will destroy Sierra Madre.
We fervently hope that this plea from Northern Quezon do not fall on deaf ears but move to action people to save the remaining forest.
Very truly yours,
FR. PETE MONTALLANA
May 11, 2007
CC: Sec. Angelo Reyes