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Mindanao journalists rally behind ARMM Gov’s drive vs. illegal logging

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Media practitioners covering the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has expressed their full support in exposing illegal logging activities but asks the new Regional Governor to pin those involved under the full force of the law.

Local journalists in Cotabato city told Hataman in a media forum that they would help expose individuals or groups involved in the destruction of forest covers in Lanao del Sur, especially the endangered Lake Lanao watersheds.

“We will end illegal logging despite the imminent risk from the people involved in it who are mostly influential…But we need to see you pinning down these people in harshest fashion,” a major daily correspondent told Hataman at a press conference recently.

ARMM information chief Ali Macabalang disclosed that local journalists have expressed full backing of Presidential caretaker Muijv Hataman in his avowed campaign to stop unabated illegal logging in Lanao del Sur and other parts the ARMM, even as they dared him to bring culprits behinds bars.

Meanwhile, the task force formed by Hataman has revealed its initial report that the logs that killed scores of people at the height of the Dec. 17 floods in Iligan City were allegedly cut illegally in the forests of Lanao del Sur where a Makati City-based logging firm has been operating since 1975.

Moreover, Task Force Sendong said in its initial report that the logs were from the forests of Kapai and Tagoloan II towns in Lanao del Sur and allegedly belonging to VicMar Development Corp., a Makati-based logging and plywood company.

Journalists repeatedly tried but failed to reach VicMar officials on the company’s published phone number.

Hataman said he has not furnished VicMar with a copy of the report yet as it was only the initial finding of the task force. He also said he was not singling out the company.

“We needed to get more documents and statements of three former DENR-ARMM secretaries,” he said.

The task force also confirmed the existence of the so-called carabao logging in the area, a local yet most rampant scheme. Residents said some proceeds of the scheme were allegedly being sold to the Makati-based logging firm.

The report said VicMar has been stockpiling timber in its log pond in the Kapai-Bayug river junction before processing these in its sawmill in Barangay Hinaplanon in Iligan City, which is along the Mandulog River.

“So after the logs are being stocked at the log pond, these logs will be naturally drifted away to Iligan City through the Mandulog River,” the task force said.

It said another logging company—Tagoloan Poblacion Farmer Multipurpose Cooperative—holds an Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) in Tagoloan II but the report quoted DENR-ARMM as saying the firm has not started operating.

“Only VicMar has been in operation in the area since 1975,” the task force said.

VicMar, the task force said, got a Timber License Agreement for 18,730 hectares of forests in Kapai and Tagoloan II on Nov. 27, 1975. It expired on June 30, 1997, but VicMar applied for an IFMA.

The IFMA, issued March 25, 1996, reduced VicMar’s area of operations to 6,795 hectares. It was issued under ex-ARMM Gov. Lininding Pangandaman and would expire on March 24, 2021.

On Jan. 29, 2009, VicMar was exempted from the logging bans imposed by former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong imposed a similar ban in 2010 but the firm also managed to secure exemption.

By AGM/RVC-PIA9 ZBST




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