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DENR-Negros Or probes loading of forest products in ambulance

Judy Flores Partlow (The Freeman) - July 6, 2017 - 4:00pm

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Negros Oriental has asked the barangay captain of Puhagan in Valencia town to submit her affidavit regarding the apprehension of cut trees loaded in an ambulance last March.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Efren Rombaoa, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer II (CENRO), said they have not yet filed a formal complaint against those apprehended as they need to also get the side of Puhagan Barangay Captain Leonarda Sarita.

Rombaoa said the DENR should “give her a chance to explain her side on what happened then." He said the persons who were apprehended had “implicated her” in their affidavits submitted earlier, but he did not elaborate.

Rombaoa said he had written Sarita last week to submit her affidavit before the DENR can move ahead with the investigation.

A police blotter report from the Valencia Police Station showed that, sometime on March 20, a team of DENR-CENRO personnel intercepted and apprehended three men for transporting forest products on a government ambulance without the necessary permits.

The police report identified the three as Policarpio Bantillo Bartolome, 60 years old; Alfredo Trumata Marquez, 42; and Quirico Abrantes, 56 — all residents of Barangay Puhagan in Valencia.

Confiscated from them were forest products consisting of 12 pieces “logbolts” of agoho tree species of different dimensions with a total volume of 0.0682 cubic meters, and a Nissan Urvan marked with “AMBULANCE” belonging to Barangay Puhagan.

Rombaoa said the suspects failed to present a permit to cut and a permit to transport. He said that, as soon as they received the affidavit of Sarita, the DENR will then review all affidavits submitted and give the persons involved a chance to explain because “that is the essence of due process.”

After a review by their legal division, they will come up with a resolution to be forwarded to the DENR regional office that will finally dispose of the report, Rombaoa said.

Meanwhile, the seized Puhagan ambulance was released to the local government unit of Valencia, based on Department Administrative Order No. 97-32, said Rombaoa.

The order states that government vehicles, if apprehended during an illegal activity related to the environment, must be released to the immediate supervisor of the government entity who has jurisdiction over the said conveyance, he said.

Rombaoa said they had earlier asked the Department of Interior and Local Government in Region 18 (Negros Island Region) to take custody of the ambulance. However, the DILG-18 said the ambulance should instead be turned over to Valencia LGU.

Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves agreed to take custody of the ambulance but, because he was away at the time, the vehicle was turned over instead to the vice mayor..

Rombaoa assured the LGU that the release of the ambulance will not have any bearing on the possible criminal liability of those involved. He also clarified that guards of the Energy Development Corporation only assisted the CENRO II personnel, who were at the geothermal site for routine patrol when the apprehension took place.

Rombaoa also explained that under Section 16 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended, forest products, regardless of kind, volume and size, and even for “firewood” — that are without documents — are subject for apprehension. (FREEMAN)

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