SANTA ANA, Cagayan: The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has formed a task force to save the endangered Palaui Island in the coastal town in Cagayan from illegal logging activities.
CEZA officer-in-charge Engineer Julian Gonzales said on Monday that they have formed Task Force Bantay Gubat to save Palaui from all environmentally-destructive activities.
“The creation of the task force was triggered by last month’s discovery of thousands of illegally-cut trees in the Palaui’s forest area at Sitio Aguab,” Gonzales said
Gonzales said the task force headed by CEZA comprises the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and concerned local government units and the private sector.
Gonzales said there is a need for better cooperation and coordination with these sectors to protect Palaui from illegal cutting of trees and other activities adverse to its existence.
He said CEZA will deputize both government and civilian personnel to regularly man the island and protect its natural resources.
“We have also established additional checkpoints to prevent the smuggling not only illegally-cut trees and other natural resources but also white sands from the island,” Gonzales said.
The development of Palaui Island is under the jurisdiction of CEZA which is a government-owned and controlled corporation under the Office of the President. The island is part of CEZA’s 54,000-hectare economic zone.
Inhabited mostly by the Agta tribe, the 7,145-hectare Palaui Island which lies along the West Philippine Sea-Pacific Ocean coast was declared as a National Marine Reserve in 1994.
Palaui’s waters around the island boast of 21 commercial species of fishes with about 50 hectares of undisturbed corals.
Last year, the United States-based Cable News Network named Palaui as among the world’s 100 most beautiful islands and beaches for its glorious white sand meeting volcanic rocks and blue green water.
Meanwhile, the DENR is investigating the culprits in the illegal cutting of trees in the island.
DENR-Region 2 Director Benjamin Tumaliuan said he received reports that local officials are allegedly involved in the recently confiscated 13,000 board feet of illegally-cut lumber from the island.
However, local officials here vehemently denied any involvement in the cutting of trees inside Palaui amid reports that some of them are in cahoots with the financiers and operators of said illegal activities.
“There are no local officials who were involved in this reported illegal activities in the island as the local leadership is in one with the national government and other sectors in protecting the town’s natural treasure,” said Mayor Darwin Tobias.
Tobias said the local officials here have nothing to do with the illegal logging activities in Palaui. “There is no reason for us to destroy our very own natural resources.”