ENVIRONMENTAL group Green Alert Negros (GAN) urged officials of the Provincial Government and environment office to probe the alleged "rampant" timber poaching in southern Negros Occidental.

GAN said they have met with members of the Task Force Ilahas (TFI) who informed them of a "massive timber poaching in the southern part of Negros by unknown culprits."

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GAN cited these poaching activities according to its informant in boundaries of Ilog, Candoni, Hinobaan and some parts of Negros Occidental.

The said area is commonly called by the locals as "Wilderness" which is more than 300 hectares of virgin forest that was deliberately left untouched by giant logging company Insular Lumber Corporation (Ilco) to serve as habitat for wildlife, said Mark Cervantes, GAN coordinator.

The "Wilderness" is accessible from Barangay Pinngot, Ilog and Barangay Damutan, Hinobaan, about five to seven hours trek, said Cervantes.

In a report submitted by the TFI to the Provincial Government in December 2009, the group stressed that endemic premium species of Bagtikan, Tanguile and other Lauan species that are estimated to be over 100 years old grow majestically in the site are being cut by unknown culprits, GAN said.

It added: "Rampant timber poaching started in the area when fishing grounds in the coastal areas in the southern part of Negros were limited due to the Fishery Code."

This forced small fisherfolk to go farther into deeper waters, thus requiring them to have a much larger and longer boats that need longer hulls and keels that extend up to 80 feet in length and this mean one thing, looking for the best trees inside the "Wilderness", said Cervantes.

GAN recalled that last December 14, 2009, joint elements of the TFI, Cenro Sipalay, 12 Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army, Hinobaan Police Station and Hinobaan Agriculture Office conducted a ground survey and damage assessment of the "Wilderness".

"Prime century old species of trees were cut and left inside the forest area. Some of which assembles the size of a passenger jeepney," said Cervantes.

Further, GAN said it "appreciates the planned action of the Provincial Government on this matter but this is not enough. Mere confiscation of the log is merely scratching the surface. The Provincial Government should compel the Penro and the Provincial Management and Environment Office to act on this, go after the culprit and enforce forestry law."

GAN likewise stressed that the Provincial Government and the Penro has so far been poor and weak in terms of protecting its remaining forest bastions like Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park and the Northern Negros Natural Park.

The group also warned the Provincial Government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of impending threats of climate change like aggravated natural hazard events such as floods, droughts, etc as an effect of the clearing of Negros remaining forest cover. (GMD)