The Fish Keep Getting Away

If people at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Catanduanes were fishermen, their bellies would have been full but their families would have nothing for dinner.

The other Sunday, the governor’s Task Force Kalikasan intercepted a wing van with a cargo of finished furniture and narra lumber tucked underneath its load of scrap iron, old newspapers and cartons.

It soon turned out that the shipment was covered by documents issued by the CENRO, although the shipper, Gina Tenerife Furniture Shop based in Tobrehon, San Miguel, could not present the Certificate of Lumber Origin.

What was questionable about the cargo was that the "stair steps" listed in the CENRO permit were not finished furniture, as it was merely passed over once with a planer and the quantity on the permit was erased and replaced with a figure ten times as much. For a government agency tasked with the vital job of protecting the dwindling forest resources of Catanduanes from rapacious illegal cutters and smugglers of lumber, the public expects nothing less than properly issued permits based on authentic documents.

There were discrepancies in the papers shown by both shipper and transporter. For starters, the junkshop owner’s real name was Marissa Biazon Lagman but the name appearing in her DTI registration was "Ina Biazon Langgam." The receipt issued by the Tenerife furniture shop indicated that it was bought by someone from Taguig, Metro Manila and yet, according to Lagman or Langgam, most of the lumber was to be delivered to the residence of San Miguel Mayor Edna Bernal in Daet and two CENRO officials in Naga City.

If this is the way the DENR is being run, we should not be surprised why the campaign against the illegal cutting of trees and the smuggling of precious narra to the mainland continues unmolested. We can call to mind last year’s confiscation of narra flitches stored at the compound of a Pandan councilor. The lumber is now rotting at Camp Camacho, with no case filed against the alleged owner while the councilor is said to be contemplating the filing of a case against the police. By the way, what happened to the lumber retrieved from the mountains of Campo ErmitaƱo?

The Langgam truck has been released, sans the excess narra stair steps, reportedly after DENR officials talked with the governor. Those who got caught in the controversy are still smarting and planning to get even.

It’s a pity that the province has not been able to muster enough warm bodies and excite angry opposition against government officials who condone the rapists of our forests, unlike the campaign against the proposed coal mining and magnetite extraction.

Unless the people gets it into their heads that the smuggling of lumber out of the island has to be stopped by all means, we would not have enough lumber to even provide for a roof to cover our heads after a destructive typhoon. Lumber may be a replaceable resource, unlike coal or magnetite, but it could soon run out as we have not been serious in planting trees in the mountains. Something should be done, not just one or two apprehensions good for a day’s work for the media.

Source: Editorial, Catanduanes Tribune - 30 July 2010