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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Aquino orders new ARMM chief to 'Stop illegal logging'

President Benigno Aquino III and Mujiv Hataman,
Malacañang, Republic of the Philippines.
Iligan City, Philippines - President Aquino has ordered newly appointed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman to stop illegal logging in the provinces under his jurisdiction.

Mr. Aquino revealed his order on Tuesday before more than a hundred Iligan City residents that gathered in a high school gym to meet him in the aftermath of the devastation brought by Tropical Storm Sendong.

President Aquino said stopping illegal logging would prevent flashfloods that killed hundreds in Mindanao over the past weekend.

In a command conference earlier on Tuesday morning in Cagayan de Oro, President Aquino said he has formed a fact-finding team that would look into ways how to improve the existing systems and prevent a repeat of the huge amount of deaths caused by Sendong.

Hataman imposes log ban in ARMM

The newly appointed Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, ordered a total ban on logging in the region, heeding the first instruction that he received from President Benigno Aquino III.

Hataman said in a phone interview that his administration would cancel and review all permits to log issued by previous administrations in the region.

Holders of logging permits in ARMM would have to reapply but Hataman said he doubted any permit to log would be issued during his 17-month term as officer in charge.

Hataman said his priority was to advance "greening" programs that would bring back to life denuded forests in ARMM.

Mr. Aquino gave the instruction to Hataman after seeing for himself the destruction in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Cities brought by Tropical Storm 'Sendong' but which was believed to have been aggravated by the effects of logging.

Previous bans

The President announced the war on logging before, at least 100 residents of Iligan gathered in a school gym during his visit to the city.

A ban on logging, however, was not new in ARMM.

In March last year, ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said Ansaruddin Adiong, then acting governor, had all logging permits canceled in Maguindanao, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Lanao del Sur.

Adiong gave the order after environment officials noted a sharp decline in the region's forest cover to just more than 50,000 hectares.

Four years before Adiong, former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan also banned logging in ARMM. Ampatuan is now in jail for the 2009 massacre of at least 58 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

In March 2006, Ampatuan declared a total logging ban and the announcement was made by Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, then ARMM solicitor general.

Ampatuan also stripped the regional environment office of authority to issue logging permits and timber licenses under Regional Memorandum Order No. 135.

"All shipments of logs from any part of the ARMM to any destination, whether in other parts of Mindanao, in the Visayas and Luzon are now prohibited. Violators will be dealt with accordingly," Guiani-Sayadi had said at that time.

The order has not been amended.

On a recent aerial survey conducted by the authorities, the logs that came along with the flashflood came from Lanao del Sur. The authorities found some lumber yards in the area, numerous logs scattered by the flood, and deforested portions of mountains, which is believed to have aggravated the disaster.

Carabao Logging

On the same day Mr. Aquino ordered him to stop illegal logging in the ARMM, Hataman said among the activities he would stop is carabao logging, so called because loggers use carabaos to transport their haul out of the forests.

"I was informed by Task Force Ranao commander Col. (Daniel) Lucero that the deluge (in Iligan City) came down from the mountains of Lanao because there are no more trees. The waters easily flowed toward rivers. Somebody must answer for this," said Hataman.

Survivors have reported seeing people smashed to death by logs during floods brought by Sendong in Iligan City, which lies below the mountains of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

The day after the floods, hundreds of timber lay along the beaches and river banks of Iligan and nearby areas.


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