LANAO DEL SUR, ARMM: Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DENR-ARMM) impounded more than 50 tons of forest products in Maguing, Lanao del Sur.
DENR-ARMM Regional Secretary Kahal Kedtag said the impounded lumber was transported in 12 truckloads when intercepted over the weekend.
Kedtag also ordered the closure of three sawmills in Maguing where the illegal logs reportedly came from.
He said the forest products were smuggled from protected watersheds in the surroundings of Maguing in the first district of Lanao del Sur, which is part of the 180,000-hectare Lanao Lake watershed.
The operation, led by Kedtag himself, was carried out based on information revealed by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the rampant illegal logging of forest trees in the upland barangay of Maguing.
Tropical rainforests around Maguing are part of government-controlled watersheds from where springs big rivers that flow into the sprawling Lanao Lake in Marawi City.
Kedtag, assisted by the DENR-Lanao del Sur staff, also confiscated stationary engines and other equipment used in sawing the timber made into lumber and sold in the nearby cities of Marawi and Iligan.
The environment officials also searched three sawmills in different locations assisted by more than 50 MNLF members armed with M-60 machine guns and B-40 shoulder-fire rocket launchers.
“We are thankful to the vigilant residents of Maguing and the provincial government of Lanao del Sur for helping us carry out this large-scale anti-illegal logging operations,” Kedtag said.
Kedtag, however, declined to named the operators of the three sawmills pending the filing of criminal cases against them.
In January 2012, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman banned the cutting of forest trees in the entire region, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The DENR-ARMM has shut down 16 unlicensed sawmills in different Lanao del Sur towns and seized more than 200 tons of forest products after the imposition of the moratorium.
Records obtained from DENR-ARMM indicated a 21,000-hectare increase in the region’s more than 200,000 hectares of forests since the ban was enforced.
Kedtag said the feat is a result of the massive reforestation of logged over areas and hinterlands abandoned by kaingin or slash-and-burn farming that burns vast tracts of forests for rice and corn farming.
“Many owners of large patches of private lands have also been planting forest trees on their titled lands in support of our reforestation program,” he added.
The watershed areas in Lanao del Sur comprise 180,000-hectares of forests in mountain ranges overlooking Lake Lanao, whose downstream flow to Iligan City and Lanao del Norte propels hydroelectric power plants supplying three-fourths of Mindanao’s daily power needs.
Meanwhile, Lanao del Sur environment officer Kusain Abbas said the forest products impounded last Saturday in Maguing shall be subjected to adjudication proceedings.