Cebu News

“Illegal” Tree cutting: Town exec willing to correct mistake

Michael Vencynth H. Braga/RHM - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Saying he wants to “move on,” Argao, Cebu Mayor Edsel Galeos yesterday said the town would find a way to correct whatever lapses it committed in the implementation of a development project in Barangay Jampang that happens to be in a timberland.

He made the statement during a meeting with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -7 and League of Municipalities in the Philippines-Cebu officials.

Galeos and five others are facing charges filed by DENR-7 for abuse of authority and for violation of Sections 77 and 78 of Presidential Decree Number 705 (Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines) as amended by Republic Act 7161, before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas over the alleged illegal cutting of 374 trees of various species.

Section 77 of PD 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines states “that any person who shall cut, gather, collect, removed timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code.”

In the said law, violators would be fined of up to P20,000 and an imprisonment from six months to two years for each offense.

“In case the offender is a government official or employee, he shall, in addition to the above penalties, be deemed automatically dismissed from office and permanently disqualified from holding any elective or appointive position,” it also stated.

Galeos  said there is nothing to settle between him and DENR-7 Executive Director Isabelo Montejo since they are not in conflict with each other.

“Actually wa man mi nag-away ni Director Montejo, siguro trabaho lang. Personally wa mi nag-away. Naa mi tagsa-tagasa ka mandato gud, so akong gisunod ang akoa,” he told reporters.

In a separate interview,  Montejo said the agency has yet to review the cease and desist order it issued for the town to stop from undertaking any development within the area classified as timberland.

He, too, said he and Galeos are friend and that there was nothing personal in the filing of the complaint against the town mayor

During the meeting, the involved parties discussed Argao’s Forest Land Use Plan. Montejo said they would sign a memorandum of agreement for the joint implementation of the plan.

“Ang nahitabo sa Argao mao na nga fragmented ang atong development because di pa man in place ang Forest Land Use Plan. We can only do projects on the area sa forest land nga nahimutang, mohaom sa plan. It is very important for us nga in place atong forest land use plan aron makita ang progress sa tong local government units,” he said.

Under the plan, DENR and the town would identify which area of the forest land is for protection and for production.

Montejo said the protected portion of the forest is the area that should be preserved since it is the source of water and provides balance to the ecology of the place, while area for production is where development like agro-forestry farms could take place.

Mayor Democrito Diamante of Tuburan town, the LMP Cebu president, hoped that the issue involving DENR-7 and Argao would be resolved amicably. (FREEMAN)


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