Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fabricated Resolution Basis for Lifting Logging Ban

from Manila Times Internet Edition: Fabricated resolution basis
for lifting of logging ban:

CASIGURAN, Aurora: A municipal councilor has alleged that a fabricated resolution was used to justify the lifting of the logging ban in this town.

In a briefing in Quezon City, Councilor Joel Torre denied that the council passed and approved Resolution 021-2005 requesting President Arroyo to lift the logging ban in Casiguran and Aurora.

“The minutes of the meeting of March 21, 2005, regular session shows there was no such approved resolution. The lifting of the logging ban was not also included in our agenda so how come there was such a resolution?” he asked.

Torre said the document was fabricated to justify the lifting of the moratorium by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, allowing the Industries Development Corp. to continue its logging operation in August 2005.

Mayor Reynaldo Bitong of Casiguran said he only learned about the “fake” resolution from the energy department’s evaluation team that assessed the logging activities of IDC to determine whether its logging permit would be reinstated.

In December last year, President Arroyo declared a total logging ban nationwide after a series of landslides and flash floods hit Aurora, Quezon and parts of Nueva Ecija, killing 1,600 people and displacing more than 53,000 families.

Bitong noted that the corporation started its operation in August 2005 but applied for a mayor’s permit only in September.

He refused to issue a permit since the company allegedly failed to submit a multipartite agreement with the local government and nongovernment organizations endorsing its logging operation. The firm also reportedly failed to provide the mayor a rehabilitation plan and a budget for its implementation.

Bitong faces a civil case after the firm filed a petition for mandamus with application for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. Judge Corazon Soluren of Branch 96 of the Baler Regional Trial Court issued a 20-day TRO dated December 2, preventing him from stopping logging operations in Casiguran.

Of the 57,069-hectare logging area, 70 percent is in Casiguran, while the remaining hectares are in the towns of Dinalungan and Dilasag in Aurora.

Environment Secretary Mic­hael Defensor said the IDC was allowed to operate because of its “satisfactory” performance. He claimed his approval had the consent of NGOs, like Tanggol Kalikasan, but the group denied the secretary’s claims.

The Manila Times tried to contact Defensor for his comment on the allegedly fake resolution but he was available. -- Ronnie E. Calumpita


from NORDIS weekly: Env’t group backs Casiguran mayor decision not to grant permit to logging firm. Environmental groups in Aurora province backed Casiguran town Mayor Reynaldo Bitong, who was issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by Regional Trial Court Branch 96 Judge Corazon Soluren, in the Petition for Mandamus by the logging company Industries Development Corporation (IDC). read more.

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