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Needed: A Common Stand on Forest Protection

There are reliable reports that Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Vivencio Cabanayan, Jr. is on the way out before September is over.

Piqued by the DENR official’s alleged involvement in the smuggling of narra lumber to the mainland, Gov. Joseph C. Cua reportedly lobbied to have Cabanayan transferred to another posting. Now, the hard question is: will his relief stop the veritable flood of illegally-sourced narra that goes out of the island under the DENR’s very eyes?

The provincial chief executive has already made his position clear in various fora: the small-time lumber smugglers will keep their livelihood as long as the lumber is used for domestic purposes or house construction; he will favorably endorse applications for Private Land Timber Permits for the cutting of naturally-grown trees provided the forest products are manufactured by legitimate shops into finished furniture; and, his main concern is to reduce to a bare minimum the considerable volume of hardwood that is smuggled out of the island by way of fast motorized bancas and closed vans, often with the connivance of law enforcers and foresters.

Thus, the main job of the incoming CENRO, assuming the rumor is true, would be to reorient the Catanduanes DENR personnel, especially those who have tasted the nectar of corruption, into becoming protectors of the remaining forest stands of the island

Another would be to convince registered lumber dealers and furniture shops to secure legitimate sources of lumber through PLTPs. There would be no incentive for unscrupulous foresters to fleece them of thousands of pesos in cash if they are following the law.

Our home in this corner of the country has the largest remaining forest stand in the entire Bicol and, like the rest, has been losing out to tree cutters and smugglers steadily. The DENR, the provincial government’s Task Force Kalikasan, the lumber dealers and furniture makers, as well as the citizenry should work hand-in-hand to ensure that we take only the lumber that we need; that whatever we cut, we put to good, productive use; and, that for every tree we cut down, we replace immediately by planting at least 10 tree seedlings.

Source: Editorial, Catanduanes Tribune, 10 September 2010

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