Note: Published on page A1 of the Dec. 6, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
SENSING "all talk but no action" from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, environmentalists in Aurora and Quezon challenged her to immediately cancel the permits of at least nine big logging companies in the two provinces where hundreds of people died from massive floods and landslides blamed on the rampant cutting of trees.
The Multi-Sectoral Action Group (MSAG) identified the companies as Pacific Timber Export Corp., Verdant Agro-Forest Development Corp., Inter-Pacific Forest Resources Corp., Industries Development Corp., RCC Timber Co., San Roque Sawmill Corp., Benson Realty Development Corp., Toplite Lumber Corp. and Green Circle Properties and Resources Inc.
The firms either have timber license agreements, integrated forest management agreements (IFMAs) or special private land timber licenses with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the MSAG said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer from Baler town, Aurora.
The operations of Green Circle, whose license covers 30,000 hectares, extend up to General Nakar town in Quezon, southeast of Aurora, MSAG secretary Joey Estriber said.
The MSAG issued the challenge after Ms Arroyo talked tough against logging. She ordered on Saturday the suspension of all logging activity in the country amid the disaster that struck the Sierra Madre mountain range, where Aurora and parts of Quezon lie.
"The logging activities of these legitimate companies are the main reason the mountains are bald," Estriber said in Filipino.
"Government was deaf to our appeals for a large-scale corporate log ban since 1991," he said...
A staunch supporter of Ms Arroyo himself appeared unimpressed by her declaration of an all-out war against illegal loggers...
Meanwhile, GMA blamed it to the communists:
The President earlier blamed the NPA for the flooding and landslides, saying that military reports showed that the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines had asked for protection money from loggers.
As I have known, the Communist Party of The Philippines had implemented long way before its own version of environmental measures in areas under its belligerent control that restricted and regulated the entry of logging companies, implementing its own campaign againts deforestration. As far I have known also, in the deep forests here in Mindanao, sections of government military special forces were part of securing and escorting force of big logging concessionaires licensed by the government for logging operations. As assessed by the CPP that deforestration reached to an indescriminate magnitude and inflected damage to Filipino "Lumad"s' ancestral lands, it then implemented its program of selective and regulated logging. But GMA administration is hell-bent blaming the "left", which I find so laughable.