Timber poaching through the use of illegal chainsaw units remains rampant in the densely forested town of San Vicente, according to the newly-formed San Vicente Law Enforcement Task Force (SVLETF).
“Up to now, there are still many locals who operate unregistered chainsaw units,” task force chief Choi Estoya told Palawan News on Monday, February 12.
Last year, Estoya said 8 to 9 chainsaw units had been seized in San Vicente, the highest among Palawan towns, based on the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff’s (PCSDS) confiscation data.
“As their source of living, they are accustomed to cutting trees and engaging in slash-and-burn farming and charcoal-making,” he said.
The task force chief said reports concerning this illegal activity usually come from the remote, hard-to-reach Barangays of Binga and Canipo. They also receive some reports from Barangay Port Barton.
“After getting tip-offs, we send out people to verify them on the ground before we launch an operation along with other concerned law enforcement authorities,” he added.
Two weeks ago, Estoya said they seized 355 board feet of illegally cut Ipil piled up inside the beachfront property allegedly owned by a television personality in Barangay Binga.
“The caretaker did not tell us where the confiscated lumber were from. They even denied its ownership,” he said
A case in violation of the Philippine Forestry Code has already been filed by the PCSDS Enforcement Team against the caretaker, he added.
Since the task force was formally created last year, Estoya said they focus on placing enforcers in every clustered barangays, and also on establishing checkpoints, especially in areas identified as timber poaching hotspots.
“Initially, we got a budget of around P1 million for the allowances of enforcers who risk lives as they perform their duty. Still, much is needed if we want to strengthen our law enforcement,” he added.
Estoya said the municipal government, meanwhile, has alloted a total investment of P5.6 million for enforcement.