Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Build Back Better Task Force (BBBTF) Chairperson Roy A. Cimatu  wants a more pre-emptive approach  in its anti-illegal logging strategies to prevent illegall loggers from cutting trees. 

Cimatu said    “the recent floodings should serve as a wake up call for a re-examination of our models of the forest protection operations which I think have been largely measured  in terms of apprehended undocumented forest products and not in terms of standing trees.” Cimatu said

“My  priority is to prevent the cutting,” Cimatu said, adding that apprehended cut trees reported as accomplishments by DENR field officers is telling of the quality of their forest protection efforts within their respective  jurisdiction.

“Ang trophy ay yung nakatayong mga puno, hindi yung mga putol na,” Cimatu stressed  as a reminder to DENR field officers that apprehended undocumented forest products “should actually be regarded as their failure to prevent these trees from being illegally cut.”  ‘pero kung naputol na yan, hulihin na lang natin , pero hindi pa rin tayo happy nyan.” 

At the same time, Cimatu tasked DENR Undersecretary  for Special Concerns Bernardo Leonardo to  lead the creation and operationalization of three special composite teams that would augment anti-illegal logging operations in Cagayan Valley,  the Bicol Region , including the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.

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

The Order is pursuant to Executive Order 23 of 2011 which calls for the creation, from the national to the regional and provincial levels,  of  Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force and composed  of representatives from the DENR as chair; and from the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as members. Cimatu also said that the pro-active and aggressive  whole-of-society approach in anti-illegal logging campaign will be implemented, highlighting the role of LGUs and strong citizen and community participation.

He  said  “pinpointing”  those  behind illegal logging  activities “is the key,” while noting that  only transporters and buyers in possession of cut undocumented forest products  are oftentimes collared  in  illegal logging operations.

The DENR’s Environment Protection and Enforcement Task Force (EPETF) reported that some 40,385 boardfeet of undocumented forest products have been apprehended during the pandemic months between June  to September 2020.

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

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

Cimatu reiterated that he  would not scale down efforts to enforce forestry laws during the pandemic and that field officers would continue to patrol forests.

 "We expect to  increase the intensity in running after  forest crimes as severely as possible so that there is a deterrent effect,” Cimatu said.