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Villagers, execs want total logging ban in Davao Oriental<p>By Ferdinand O. Zuasola

CITY OF MATI, Davao Oriental, June 26 — Residents of Barangay Macambol here have finally found formidable allies in their fight against illegal loggers whom they accused of endangering their lives and source of livelihood.

They said their lives are now in great danger due to unabated cutting of trees in their village that have not only polluted and depleted their source of potable water but have caused severe flooding and landslides in their village.

With the full support of local leaders of the Catholic Church, the protesting residents of Barangay Macambol have trooped to the provincial Capitol to seek the support of Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon in their fight against logging activities in their village.

A staunch environment advocate, Malanyaon has then ordered an emergency meeting of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Council (PENRC), a regulatory body which she chairs, to discuss the protesting residents complaints.

Upon hearing the protesters' plea against logging activities in Barangay Macambol, the PENRC, which was composed of all municipal mayors and provincial board members, have passed a resolution urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) "to suspend the operation of all PLTP (Private Land Timber Permit) located in Barangay Macambol in the City of Mati and to immediately conduct a review and evaluation on the matter and look into the petition of the community in the area as soon as possible."

The protesting residents said the support being extended by the provincial government to their cause was a "big boost" to their advocacy as they hope the incoming President Benigno Aquino Jr. will help them to stop the "massive cutting of trees" in their village.

"We thank Governor Corazon Malanyaon for supporting us in our struggle against environmental destruction in our place. From the very start, we were confident to get her support for our advocacy because we know she is a staunch environment advocate, the first governor in Davao Oriental to initiate the most meaningful environment program called Plant a Million Trees Movement which will really change the landscape of our province for the better," says an elderly woman who attended the emergency meeting at the Capitol building.

Under the law, logs can only be extracted from natural forests and private tree plantations if the operators are holders of any of the following: Timber License Agreements (TLA); Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA); Community-based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMA); Provisional Timber License Agreements (PTLA); Private Forest Development Agreements (PFDA); and Private Land Timber Permit (PLTP).

PENRC resolution said that there were a number of PLTPs issued by the DENR to some landowners in Barangay Macambol since the last quarter of 2009 until the second quarter of 2010. The operation of the PLTPs has alarmed the local people's organizations and non-government organizations in the area since they said that this jeopardizes the slope stability, putting them in danger of landslides and mudslides during heavy rains and causes heavy erosion and silt formation in the Pujada Bay protected seascape and landscape.

Because of these apprehensions, the resolution added that the local community, together with some people's organizations and non-government organizations, submit a petition to this province, requesting for intervention and possible support to their concerns, although the issuance of PLTP approval is not within the jurisdiction of the provincial government but with the DENR.

During a recent dialogue with top officials of the provincial government, the protesting residents said that the most dreadful “Ormoc Tragedy” may soon happen to their place if logging activities will not be stopped.

In a joint statement, the Barangay Macambol residents also called on all residents of the City of Mati to join their protest action.

“Because this is for all of us, we have to close ranks to protect our very own Pujada Bay, which feeds ninety percent of the population of Mati. If we allow them to kill Pujada Bay, it's just like allowing them to kill us all because Pujada Bay is our major source of living," the statement said.

The thick forests of Mati, especially in Barangay Macambol, was declared a few years ago as an eagle sanctuary by the local government of Mati, the only place in the country to have such a distinction. And it is one of the fabulous tourism destinations of Davao Oriental, captivating a horde of highly discriminating eco-tourists coming from different parts of the globe. (PNA) RMA/Ferdinand O. Zuasola/lvp

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