Continuous illegal logging threatens protected Palaui Island

CAGAYAN, Philippines- A municipal official in Santa Ana town here expressed dismay over the recent discovery of illegal logging in the famous and protected Palaui Island.

Palaui Island has become famous for previously for hosting two seasons of Survivor USA and for being included in the Top 10 most beautiful beaches of the world by broadcast network CNN.

“STOP ILLEGAL LOGGING IN STA ANA! Chainsaws with silencers are all over Palaui Island,” Santa Ana Vice Mayor Genevy  Rodriguez said in a recent Facebook post.

Rodriguez said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine Navy – the agencies tasked to monitor and investigate the cutting of trees in the area – led the discovery of the logging machinery.

She said townspeople have shifted to this illegal livelihood because it brings easy money.

“The moral fiber of most of us in Sta Ana has decayed because of cutting narra. It is easy money. Most of their livelihood did not prosper because most of them wanted easy money,” Rodriguez said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Not the first time

It was not the first time that local officials here discovered signs of illegal logging on the island.

In August 2014, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DENR) found about 10,000 board feet of cut hardwood at the center of the island’s forest.

An investigation has since been ordered with the cooperation of DENR, Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Navy.

Wilfredo Malvar, the DENR Forest Management Service head of Cagayan Valley, had not yet been informed about the discovery of chainsaws and logs when Rappler reached him for comments.

Malvar said he would direct his local counterpart in the area to inspect and probe the incident, which, apparently, had been going on for quite a long time.

Lack of attention

In a text message to Rodriguez, Harold Gonzales, the head of the Eagle Task Force Kalikasan-Armed Forces of the Philippines (ETFK-AFP) in Santa Ana, said they had been monitoring possible suspects, but they are facing difficulties in pursuing the culprits because of lack of support and fund from the government.

"Marami na rin po kaming nahuhuli rito sa Santa Ana na illegal logs kaso puro abandoned. Wala kaming mahuli na tao kapag nakikipag-coordinate kami sa DENR," the ETFK-AFP head told Rodriguez.

(We have ceased many illegal logs here in Santa Ana, but they are all abandoned. No one is found and arrested every time we coordinate with the DENR.) 

Gonzales said they cannot move immediately when they get tips of illegal logging activities because they don't have standby funds to hire a car and motor boat to rush to the area. –