MANILA - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation's Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) in its fight against the illegal logging trade.
The DENR said it tapped the NBI to build airtight cases against illegal logging offenders to ensure their conviction.
"This partnership will enhance both the DENR's and NBI-EnCD's operational capabilities to help keep the momentum gained so far by the Aquino administration in addressing the illegal logging trade, which is undertaken by criminal networks and has dangerous social, environmental and economic impacts," DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said in a statement on Wednesday.
"It's clear that the best deterrence to illegal logging is the certainty of detection and conviction," he added.
The partnership was formalized with the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement between Paje and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, together with NBI Director Virgilio Mendez.
Under the MOA, the NBI-EnCD will provide its technical expertise in planning specific investigations and filing of criminal and administrative charges against suspected illegal loggers, including their financiers and cohorts in government.
The environment secretary noted that the NBI-EnCD has proven itself as a dependable partner of the DENR in the enforcement of environmental laws. He cited its role in the drive against black sand mining in Northern Luzon and Bicol, and the anti-illegal wildlife trade campaign.
Since 2010, 1,294 cases for violation of Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Philippine Forestry Reform Code have been recorded. A total of 191 individuals have been convicted.
According to Paje, the imposition of the total log ban on natural and residual forests under Executive Order No. 23 (EO 23) issued by President Benigno Aquino III in 2011 boosted the government's anti-illegal logging drive.
He said EO 23 has brought down to 31 from 197 the number of illegal logging hotspots in the country. It has also resulted in the apprehension of at least 27.9 million board feet of illegally cut and transported forest products worth around P1.118 billion.
The DENR said many of the confiscated wood products have been donated to the Department of Education (DepEd), which in turn converted them into 146,295 pieces of school furniture consisting of armchairs, desks, cabinets, school panels, among others.