The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government of Palawan have taken proactive measures in the effort to keep the Philippines’ last frontier free of illegal logging.
The multi-sectoral Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) of Palawan, led by Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez of the province DENR Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Juan dela Cruz, has been reactivated following reports that timber products from the province are being shipped illegally to Malaysia. Dela Cruz said task force members, including representatives from the military and police, have agreed to take the following steps to curb the supposed illegal logging trade between Palawan and Malaysia: personnel of the Maritime Special Boat Unit were immediately deployed in all identified possible outlets like in the municipalities of Bataraza and Balabac; the Philippine Navy will conduct naval patrol blockade and apprehend all suspect vehicles transporting illegally cut forest products and wildlife; all detachments of the Philippine Marines and the Philippine National Police will arrest poachers and illegal transporters within their areas of jurisdiction; and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Quezon and Brooke’s Point were directed to coordinate with military and police detachments in identified hotspot areas and to conduct anti-illegal logging operations.
Earlier, the provincial government of Palawan raised the alarm over the rampant illegal logging trade between Malaysia and the province, noting that Malaysian authorities were allegedly freely allowing illegal logs to enter Malaysia through the town of Kudat in Sabah. Records from the port of Kudat showed that in January this year, 27 motor launches had unloaded logs coming from southern Palawan, and that another 12 motor launches unloaded the same cargo in Kudat in June.
However, the AILTF said there was no confirmation that all lumber and rattan poles discovered in the Malaysian port did come from southern Palawan. The task force cited intelligence reports from military and police authorities that most of the vessels carrying the contraband were registered in Zamboanga, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. It also noted the possibility that some of the timber products originated from another province, since the photographs of timber products seemed to compose mostly of softwood and planted species, which are not among the hardwood species found in southern Palawan forests that have been recorded by the DENR.
Meanwhile, DENR Region 4B-Mimaropa Director Oscar Dominguez has advised Dela Cruz to request the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation in Puerto Princesa City in investigating the boat owners and to coordinate with the Maritime Industry Authority.
Domiguez thanked the provincial government and law enforcement agencies in Palawan for their immediate action, even as he promised that the DENR will continue to “employ necessary interventions,” with the full support of all stakeholders, to ensure a “more systematic response to illegal activities not only in Palawan, but in the entire Mimaropa region.