Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the creation of augmentation teams to ensure that no illegal logging activities are being conducted in Cagayan Valley, Bicol region, and the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu

Cimatu directed DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns Bernardo Leonardo to create four special composite teams that would augment the anti-illegal logging operations in those areas.

He said the creation of augmentation teams is a strategic move on the part of the DENR to shift its orientation in forest protection operation more towards prevention by “going hard and swift” against the financiers and operators.

The order is pursuant to Executive Order 23, Series of 2011, which calls for the creation of anti-illegal logging task force from the national to the regional and provincial levels.

Each team is composed of representatives from the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police.

Cimatu said the key to curbing illegal logging is to identify and penalize the financiers and operators, noting that only transporters and buyers in possession of undocumented forest products are oftentimes collared in illegal logging operations.

The DENR chief has recognized the agency’s need to shift from reactive to proactive efforts to absolutely curtail illegal logging activities in the country.

It is high time for the DENR to move away from the traditional model of forest protection operation, which has been “largely measured in terms of apprehended undocumented forest products, and not in terms of standing trees,” he said.

“Ang trophy ay ‘yung nakatayong mga puno, hindi ‘yung mga putol na. (The trophy is the standing trees, not the felled ones),” Cimatu said during a recent meeting of the Build Back Better Task Force that is in charge of the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by recent strong typhoons.

Cimatu, who co-chairs the task force, said the massive flooding that submerged parts of Cagayan Valley, Rizal province and Marikina City during the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses should serve as a “wake-up call” for DENR field offices to recognize their accomplishments in the confiscation of undocumented forest products “not as trophies” but as “manifestations of their failure” as DENR enforcement officers.

“The illegally-gathered forest products should actually be regarded as their (DENR field offices) failure to prevent these trees from being illegally cut,” Cimatu said.

He noted that illegal logging has been referred to as one of the reasons behind the devastating floods due to typhoon Ulysses.

The DENR’s Environment Protection and Enforcement Task Force has reported that some 62,666 board feet of undocumented forest products have been apprehended between the months of June and October.

Most of the apprehended forest products were narra, red and white lauan, bagtikan and bita.

Five conveyances—consisting of two six-wheeler trucks, two closed vans and a motorcycle—were also seized during the period.

Cimatu had earlier said the DENR would not scale-down efforts to enforce forestry laws during the pandemic and its field officers would continue to patrol forests.

Source: Manila Bulletin (