DENR blames illegal logging for 'Pablo' destruction

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Dec 06 2012 04:08 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2012 07:08 AM

Illegal logging hotspots in Pablo’s path – Paje

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said rampant illegal logging in the Davao and Caraga regions should be blamed for typhoon Pablo’s destruction, with 80% of logging hotspots located there.

“This is now proving that total log ban is right. Several quarters are criticizing the declaration of a total log ban but look at what happened? It is now proving that we really must stop timber harvesting especially in our natural forests,” Paje said.

Compostela Valley is located in Region 11 (Davao Region). Most of the more than 300 casualties are from the area.

Executive Order (EO) No. 23 halted all authorized logging operations in natural forests nationwide, virtually stopping timber extraction of about 300 million board feet a year.

Since its implementation, illegal logging hotspots dropped from 197 to 31, located in those two regions. This is also precisely why the government is implementing an “active military operation” against illegal loggers, he said.

Paje earlier issued Resolution No. 2012-005, which transforms the government’s civilian-led campaign to finally rid Mindanao of illegal loggers. The full transition is expected by the end of December.

“We have requested the military to take the lead because the groups in these areas are armed and we have lost so many employees already in these areas. Good thing the AFP has agreed and starting this month, the anti-illegal logging campaign is now a military operation in Mindanao,” Paje said.

Heeding warnings

Paje said small-scale mining was an additional factor that led to the disaster.

In a separate interview with ANC, Paje said he has long been asking local government officials to forcibly evacuate residents from permanent danger zones.

The residents could not leave, however, since their livelihood comes from the small mines.

In another interview, Paje told dzMM: “Giving the right forecast is only one, heeding it is another…Ang kagandahan ngayon, precise na lahat halos, even the diameter of a typhoon.”

The geohazard maps, which are easily available from the department’s website, show that Compostela Valley - specifically Barangay Andap in New Bataan that registered the highest number of casualties – was colored “purple.”

This meant that the place was highly susceptible to flash floods.

Plotting both the geohazard map with the typhoon path showed their calculations were correct.

He said the government was, in fact, the most prepared even before the typhoon made its landfall last Tuesday.

"Itong nangyari ngayon sa 'Pablo' dito ko nakita, sa tingin ko the government was most prepared here. Kasi six days before [ay] pini-predict na ng PAGASA 'yung bagyo. 72 hours before [ay] halos precise na sinasabi nila yung strength, itong diamater, itong typhoon path."
He said he was at the Palace 48 hours before the typhoon hit and he witnessed first hand how President Benigno Aquino III was already giving warnings to the proper authorities.

He appealed to the public to heed the warnings.

“Nagbibigay kami warning kapag may sunlight pa, hindi kapag may bagyo na.”