TUGUEGARAO CITY: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Cagayan Valley on Tuesday ordered a thorough investigation over reports of illegal logging inside the government-protected Palaui Island in Santa Ana town allegedly perpetrated by local officials.
DENR regional director Benjamin Tumaliuan has dispatched a team to probe the cutting of endemic trees within Palaui reportedly with the backing of “high-ranking local officials”.
“We have already formed a team to conduct an investigation and find out who are behind those illegal activities. We have learned that high-ranking local officials are reportedly blaming each other over the cutting of trees there,” Tumaliuan said.
Last month, cut and felled trees like narra and kamagong were first discovered in Palaui’s sitio Aguab. This has prompted the DENR to conduct initial investigation in the island which is inhabited mostly by the Agta tribe.
Having a territorial jurisdiction over the small island of Palaui, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has also uncovered thousands of illegally-sawn lumber of various species which were abandoned.
CEZA officials also expressed apprehensions that a rampant illegal logging activities may have long been conducted in the thickly forested island endangering the rare flora and fauna which are endemic in the area mostly populated by the Agtas.
Reports reaching the DENR reveal that some of those illegally-cut forest trees from the island were impounded in a hardware owned by a wealthy businessman in Cagayan allegedly identi- fied with high ranking local officials.
Reports also said that the illegal logging activity has been going on for some time now with protection money and with the blessing of government officials.
Meanwhile, the Santa Ana municipal council is also conducting its own inquiry over the said cutting of trees and would summon allegedly involved local officials who were earlier reportedly identified by native villagers in Palaui.
Palaui is a 7,415-hectare marine, mangrove and forest area which ranked 10th on the United States-based Cable News Network (CNN) list as among the 100 most beautiful islands and beaches in the world.
The island, which is lying along the South China Sea-Pacific Ocean coast, is also home to 50 hectares of undisturbed corals managed jointly by CEZA and the DENR’s Protected Area Management Board.
The Department of Tourism, in collaboration with CEZA, is also developing the area as one of the country’s major tourism destinations which is host to 105 species of rattan and valuable timber producing wood species and 25 impor- ted shrubs.
Last year, the 27th season of the popular US reality TV series “Survivor” was entirely filmed in the island.