Probe on illegal logging in Catanduanes sought
Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento has filed a bill asking Congress to investigate alleged rampant tree cutting in the province, which he said becomes obvious whenever logs float down to its rivers and shores after the frequent storms that hit the tiny island.
House Resolution 1798, filed by Sarmiento last March, seeks to probe the alleged illegal logging operations in the province of 12 towns and the smuggling of first-class wood products to the Bicol mainland.
In his resolution, Sarmiento asked the House of Representatives to direct the concerned committees to inquire on the status of pending illegal logging cases in the province.
“Catanduanes residents are seeing and hearing of many apprehensions without a ‘big fish’ being charged or prosecuted,” he said in introducing the measure.
The lawmaker lamented that apprehensions of forest products by police and personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources merely result in the punishment of “small-time delivery men.”
He pointed out the lack of effective surveillance, monitoring, and investigation to pin down the ringleaders of the illegal logging operations and their conspirators in the government.
Sarmiento cited the recent apprehension of two persons, Marvin Soria and Elmer Morauda, a truck driver and helper, who were hauling a truckload of close to 3,000 board feet of first-class lumber such as narra and lawan coming from Bagamanoc town near Virac on March 14.
The suspects, who could not present any document for their cargo, were charged by the police in court, but they simply pleaded guilty with the assistance of their counsel, prompting Regional Trial Court Branch 42 Judge Lelu Contreras to sentence them to a mere 20 months in prison.
The light punishment makes Soria and Morauda eligible for probation soon, Sarmiento noted.
He also said that when Typhoon “Sisang” hit the country in 1989, Bato River, the biggest in Catanduanes, was found filled with logs down to the shoreline.
Sarmiento also recalled that during an inspection in the island by Defense officials accompanied by a senator a day after the typhoon, the lawmaker was quoted as saying: ”My God, Sisang must be the only typhoon carrying a chainsaw!”