The increasing demand for timber, coupled with sporadic conversion of forest areas into agricultural lands, have caused too much strain on the remaining forest covers in Eastern Visayas and threatened biodiversity in the region.
With this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office said it will intensify forest patrolling activities this year as it launched a new monitoring system to address these problems.
“Through the Landscape and Wildlife Indicators (LAWIN) Forest Biodiversity and Protection System, we shall strengthen the enforcement of our forest laws in partnership with the law enforcers so that violators are brought to the courts of justice,” OIC-Regional Executive Director Tirso Parian Jr. said.
Records of the Philippine National Police (PNP) indicate that illegal logging remains rampant in Eastern Visayas with almost P10 million worth of timber seized last year.
The PNP regional office’s year-end report showed that 335 anti-illegal logging operations were conducted in 2019, wherein the police seized 143,783.68 board feet of lumber with a market value of P9,988,643.16, along with the confiscation of 38 chainsaws and 129 different types of conveyances.
It added that these operations resulted in the arrest of 478 persons and 136 filed cases in court.
DENR Enforcement Division Chief Forester Allen Cebuano says that data from forest patrol shows timber poaching and forestland conversion to upland farming are the major drivers of forest degradation.
He pointed out that effective forest protection should lead to the search and seizure of illegitimate lumber possessors, warehouses including conveyances, tools, implements and other equipment as well as the criminal conviction of violators.
Cebuano said that once the LAWIN system takes off this week, it will target to cover 30 kilometers of forest-patrolling routes in the first quarter of this year.
He added that a 10-kilometer patrol route is targeted for areas within the jurisdiction of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Borongan, which covers the Samar Island Natural Park, as well as another 20 kilometers for CENRO-Palo.
“We hope to surpass our accomplishment in the previous year by not only documenting threats to forest and biodiversity but also in deterring future violators of environmental laws by filing cases against them in court,” Cebuano said.
DAO 2018-21 issued on 3 October 2018 by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu created the LAWIN Forest Biodiversity and Protection System, which is a tool for forest patrolling by forest protection officers carried out through the use of a smartphone or tablet to record threats to forest and biodiversity and provide accurate feedback on the condition of the forest.
Data gathered from LAWIN are immediately transferred to the SMART Desktop in the DENR’s central office for policy planning and formulation.