KIDAPAWAN CITY -- North Cotabato Police arrested a sawmill operator and 10 of her helpers in a raid conducted Wednesday at Sitio Lumayong in Barangay Kayaga in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Superintendent Alex Tagum, chief of the North Cotabato Public Safety Company and head of the raiding team, identified the sawmill operator as Nora Dura Musa, 60, who showed police a business permit allegedly issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Kabacan.

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But Tagum claimed the permit has already expired in July, 2008.

The raiding team, composed of police operatives of Carmen, Kabacan Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team of North Cotabato, confiscated four sawmill or sawing machines, two chainsaws, and more than 100 thousand board feet of lumber of hardwood species, including Lawa-an, Apitong, and Molave.

Tagum was surprised that the local DENR office failed to detect the illegal sawmill operations of Musa.

"The operations are done in public view. Musa's sawmills are located near the Pulangi River or the Rio Grande de Mindanao. When you're traversing the Carmen-Kabacan highway, you would see the sawmill operations in this area.  I was just surprised the DENR people failed to detect this," said Tagum.

Tagum said the sawmill operator has paid some P30,000 to a particular DENR employee in Kabacan town so she could secure a permit from the office.

Musa refused to identify the employee.

The document issued, however, showed Musa was given permit to operate a lumber yard and not sawmill.

"Musa is operating sawmills and not a lumber yard. This is clear violation of the permit issued to her by the DENR," Tagum said.

The illegally-cut logs confiscated in Musa's sawmill, according to Tagum, had come from the watershed of Bukidnon and towns of Arakan, Carmen, and nearby villages of Kabacan and were transported on bamboo rafts using the Pulangi River as route. 

Musa and her workers were charged with violation of environmental laws and the Environment Code of North Cotabato.

The code stated the provincial government is opposed to cutting of trees anywhere in the province, especially in areas declared as watershed.

The suspects were placed under the custody of the municipal police station in Kabacan. (MCM)