Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trees in Sudlon end up black coal

Trees in Sudlon end up black coal
By Candeze R. Mongaya
Cebu Daily News
September 29, 2011

Five hectares of a reforestation site in barangay Sudlon, Cebu City, was found ravaged by illegal tree cutters.

Indigenous trees, some planted since 1994, were cut down, some of them as recently as Sunday, by settlers.

“They’ve caused big damage in our forest. They’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Ariel Pica, Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Protected Area Supervisor (DENR-7 PASU) in a field inspection yesterday.

Local settlers hack down the trees to make charcoal, which is sold at P200 per sack in Carbon market.

When DENR foresters and Cebu Daily News visited the area yesterday, logs were piled next to a pit, where wood was being burned to make charcoal.

Police authorities arrested 50-year-old Timoteo Boris and his 18-year-old son Richard in the act of burning the logs last Sunday afternoon.

Charges are being prepared against the lot claimant, Richard Ubod, who eluded arrest. They will be charged with violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.

The cut logs were estimated to be worth P800,000 to P1 million.

The damage took place in the middle of a lush forest terrain in sitio Kabtingan. Barangay Sudlon is part of the 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape, which is supposed to be off limits to destructive forest practices like indiscriminate tree cutting and kaingin.

The wide destruction was first alerted by a forest watcher of Kantipla Ecosystem Enhancement and Protection (KEEP) Foundation.

Pica, DENR – Protected Area Supervisor of the CCPL, said his office knew about the illegal activity early this month and caught two illegal loggers burning wood for charcoal.

The logs came mostly from indigenous trees like bagalnga and iba-iba along with mahogany, molave and Gmelina for a total of 40,000 board feet.

Pica said four hectares of the cleared forest was under the management of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), which reforested the site. One hectare is maintained by KEEP Foundation run by retired police general Tiburcio “Tiboy” Fusilero.

Pica said the DENR would need affidavits of both groups to file charges against Ubod.

Cristito Ruaza, project-in-charge of the Keep Foundation, said some of the trees in the area has been planted since 1994 by the DENR. PBSP later became a partner in planting and securing the site, which falls within the Kotkot-Lusaran forest reserve.

“It takes a lot of effort to plant those trees and they cut it down just like that,” lamented Malou Largo, PBSP Visayas program coordinator for reforestation, who visited the site.

She said the seedlings planted over the years cost at least P16 each.

Ubod was one of the lot claimants who coordinated with the PBSP for the reforestation project.

Ruaza said Ubod “fooled” them by pledging to look after the newly planted seedlings, only to eventually cut them down and even threaten other forest watchers of the KEEP Foundation by pointing a high-power firearm at them.

Pica of DENR said that some of the trees has been cut since June, while others looked freshly cut, as recently as Sunday.

Several logs were piled in one area yesterday. Others were freshly cut and arranged around a one-meter-deep hole, a pit used to make charcoal by burning the wood.

“Most of the locals in the area still resort to this kind of activity because they have a limited source of income,” Pica said.

The area, which used to be a forest, was converted into a farm lot by the claimant.

“Unless residents have an alternative source of livelihood, they’ll be tempted to cut down the trees,” said Pica.

“We need the NGOs to protect the forest or all the trees would be gone.”

He said barangay officials are “particular about the votes of the residents so they are not that insistent on implementing the laws.”

The Central Cebu Protected Landscape, which extends to Balamban town and Cebu City, is 29,000 hectares. The DENR said it has only one supervisor and four forest wardens to keep an eye on the area, which was declared a protected area under Republic Act 9486.

The CCPL includes five watersheds of the Buhisan Dam, Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve, Kotkot-Lusuran Watershed Forest Reserve and the Sudlon National Park.