Stopping timber poaching

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Monday, February 17, 2014


BARANGAY Canlusong Captain Meriam Porras of E.B. Magalona nailed it perfectly. Timber-poaching, she said in her village, are means for the mountain residents who want to make “easy money.” Or to be precise, are forced to engage in illegal activities due to lack of livelihood opportunities.

Late last year, timber poachers felled 1,000 endangered premium forest tree species lauan and tanguile, with diameters at breast height ranging 15 to 76 centimeters for conversion to charcoal, according to the Task Force Ilahas, the environmental composite enforcement unit of the Provincial Environment and Management Office (Pemo).

But it’s not just a matter of “easy money.” Porras drove home the point, the necessity to provide livelihood opportunities to residents, so they will not poach the native trees.

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The fact is, neither the local governments nor the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is incapable of policing the province’s remaining mountain tropical forests by themselves. Despite the number of felled trees, only one suspected poacher has been arrested and charged in court, according to Pemo records.

For the poachers, the cat-and-mouse game with the government is a life-and-death issue. Either their families starved. Or the mountain forest environment is sacrificed. It’s a zero-sum game.

Three years ago, Nicolas and his son Rene Lozada, father and brother of Kagawad Rolanda Lozada, were murdered by armed men. Kagawad Lozada had been active campaigner against timber poaching activities at the Northern Negros Natural Park.

I personally checked with the Community and Environment and Natural Resource-Bacolod three years ago on the cause of the murders. We were planning a reforestation project there under the National Greening Program of the national government.

The office said the murders were not the handiwork of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), or that of the Revolutionary Proletariat Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) rebels. I suspect the Lozadas were killed because they broke the code of omerta among the villagers. See, hear, speak no evil.

I agree with barangay captain Porras, though. Between economic imperatives and the need for ecological conservation, what would be paramount to starving families if the breadwinners have no other sources of legitimate livelihoods? We don’t want to know the answer to that one.

As a mediator, there has got to be a way out in the conflict between economics and the environment. E’er the twain should meet in the mountain green economy where different stakeholders should benefit in win-win situations.

Think not of environmental protection but of sustainable mountain development. I wonder for one why no one is promoting the development of non-timber forest products or of organic products.

But then perhaps for the local government, it has to tap other government agencies involved with economic development such as the Technology and Livelihood Development Center or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

Recently, Tesda has started the construction of the Green Innovation Technology Center, a new learning venue that will meld green technology programs into technical vocational education and training. The center will offer green technology programs such as solar-powered lighting, bio-mass technology, and engineered bamboo (e-bamboo).

It will also have programs on advanced agricultural crop production technologies such as hydroponics and organic vegetable production using drip irrigation, and use of rain water and waste water or water recycling aimed at enhancing production.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 17, 2014.

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