Free for haulBy Conrado R. Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By now, thousands of workers in wood processing industries have lost their jobs due to the Aquino (Part II) administration’s imposition of what it called “moratorium” on logging.
The moratorium has already lasted for about one and a half years now. The administration imposed the moratorium that, in effect, became a total logging ban nationwide through Executive Order 83, issued in January 2011.
Part of the order was for the DENR to evaluate logging companies, the legitimate ones, at least, which the last time I checked were only about 10. Nobody in the DENR could say if the evaluation of those 10 firms would take several lifetimes.
To think that the order of our leader, BS, just came from out of the blue, meaning, without consultation with the affected industries, or a scientific paper to pass for basis, or even a support program for the poor families of the thousands of workers who would lose their jobs.
The wood industries lost hope long ago. Our leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS) refused to give them an audience, despite four repeated attempts by the industry big boys to sit down with him, even using some political “channels” here and there. Thus, the companies closed down their businesses, rendering thousands of people jobless.
The administration did not have a ready program, such as an alternative livelihood plan or emergency assistance, for the thousands who would suffer from its haphazard action.
What do you think those desperate men would do to feed their families? Well, they could go up to the mountains to take up arms against the government. Because they knew the logging business only too well, a number of them might be forced to look for the same type of work in the underground—in illegal logging.
Just listen to the dean of the UP College of Forestry and Natural Resources in Los Baños, doctorate degree holder Rex Victor Cruz, who was part of the UN Working Group on Climate Change team that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2011 he voiced out reservations on the logging ban: “Since these concessions (i.e. where legitimate logging companies operate—Breaktime) would not be managed well and guarded, the net effect would be far greater despoliation of the forests that a log ban seeks to protect.”
In other words, in forests all over the country, it would be free for all, everybody hauling away whole forests tax-free.
That was already determined in studies conducted by UP Los Baños in 2004, when the administration of Gloriaetta imposed a logging ban, which showed that logging concessions were in far worse conditions after the ban.
Who knows that maybe the DENR only forgot to present those studies to our leader BS?
Make no mistake—illegal logging has become a lucrative business. The government lost almost P1 billion in yearly tax revenue from the legitimate wood industries.
You would think that, because of the total ban, our importation of logs would explode all the way to another galaxy. For where would we get the lumber for the ongoing construction boom, plus all the wood for furniture, doors, window frames, all for export, amounting to close to $1 billion a year?
On the contrary, the BoC has put log importation on a sharp downtrend, and it could not even blame smuggling, simply because log importation carried zero tariff. Admittedly, being smuggled blatantly were shiploads of cheap substandard plywood from China. Not logs.
The price of lumber has been holding despite the logging ban. What was the source of the raw material, the logs? If there were really a rush of importation, it would be logical for sawmills to locate near the piers to save on transport costs for the bulky raw materials. There were none.
On the contrary, our beloved DENR has been issuing permits for sawmill operations up there in the mountains, which never made sense, because it would cost the sawmills a fortune to transport imported logs and the finished lumber back and forth.
Yet our leader, BS, also ordered the DENR to close down sawmills that would have no “sustainable sources of legally cut logs for at least five years.” Why then did the DENR issue permits for sawmills up in the mountains despite the total logging ban? Now, the DENR fancied itself to be doing its job when it announced the seizure of some logs from illegal cutting every now and then. It follows that, by the DENR’s own admission, illegal logging has been thriving despite the total nationwide ban. There were logs to be seized, right?
This is the department whose head, Secretary Ramon Paje—who has been in the DENR as undersecretary for the past 20 years, during which he never advocated the total logging ban—has fooled our leader BS by promising him that the ban would finally put an end to illegal logging in the country.
It did not, of course, and the logs seized by the DENR were reportedly only a small portion of the harvest from illegal logging, thanks to well-organized heavily armed syndicates using modern equipment and enjoying the protection of politicians, the police, the military and personnel of the DENR itself.
That the DENR had illegal logs to seize at all, should be proof to our leader, BS, that the ban was a miserable failure, and that perhaps Paje did not know what he was doing when he recommended the total ban.
The job of the DENR was not just to confiscate the illegal logs, because by then, the damage has already been done. The real job of the DENR, in the aftermath of the nationwide logging ban, was to stop the cutting of trees in the forest, period.
Of course our dear DENR secretary always had a ready excuse for the sudden rash of illegal logging, never forgetting to point out that the DENR could not possibly police all the forests in the country because of its limited manpower. Good heavens, the syndicates were even murdering the helpless DENR personnel.
Again, where do you think the syndicates got the manpower if not from the hordes of workers who lost their jobs due to the arbitrary ban imposed by our leader, BS?
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=67789