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More areas damaged by charcoal makers in Brgy. Sta. Lucia BuCor property

An area damaged by illegal logging activities along Kilometer 31 of South National Highway in Barangay Sta. Lucia

Joint operatives of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) discovered yet another 10-hectare land along Kilometer 31 of South National Highway in Barangay Sta. Lucia that have been damaged by illegal logging activities for charcoal-making and upland farming.

The joint operation netted 20 individuals clearing the forest area on Monday, April 19, while another group of 20 individuals presented themselves as farmer-members of Samahan ng Magsasaka ng Zigzag, Sta. Lucia, at Luzviminda PPC, Inc (SMZSLPPC, Inc.)  Residents of Brgy. Luzviminda were also seen in the area on Tuesday, April 20.

Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) information officer CTO II Levi Evangelista said Wednesday that the monitoring operations were in response to the reports received by the prison management about the activities conducted inside the premises of ICF.

“Iyong isa ongoing, umuusok, may apoy, tinabunan lang ng lupa ‘yon. May apoy, kahoy iyon sa loob. Binutas natin ‘yon, sinira para hindi na mapakinabangan pa. It’s a sign na ang ginagawa natin ay BuCor personnel visibility sa area na binabantayan natin ito. Iyong uulingin pa lang nila ay sinira na rin natin,” Evangelista said.

“May ilang residente doon na naabutan natin sa kanilang pansamantalang tinitirhang bahay. According to them, mga taga-Barangay Luzviminda. Ginagawa nilang temporary shelter ‘yong bahay doon, ‘yong nakikita natin. We believe na ginagamit nila ‘yon kapag may operation sila na illegal doon,” he added.

Evangelista also said that the prison management will ask illegal settlers to vacate the area.

Aside from the damaged portion of land, ICF personnel also discovered three charcoal pits which they believe were used in the recent charcoal productions and logs cut from ‘first growth forest’ or old-growth forest.

“More or less nasa 20 sila doon nagtatabas, nagbabakod kaya bilang jurisdiction ng BuCor ay kinumpiska rin natin as evidence. Sa highway kasi nasa ilang dipa lang ang layo ay nandon ‘yong mga nagtatayo ng structure at nagbabakod, magtatayo pa lang kaya naagapan natin ito,” he said.

“Hindi man tayo forester pero we believe na first growth forest ito, ‘yong variety na hindi naman natin matatanim, kung hindi ay kahoy-bundok. Walang semilya ito at hindi na natin maibabalik pa kaya nakakalungkot, napakagaganda ng mga kahoy. Wala na rin tayong nakitang mga ibon doon na lumilipad, dumadapo dahil wala na sila madadapuan,” he said.

He added that the ICF will have continuous monitoring operations to ensure that the violators will not return to the area or transfer to other areas under the jurisdiction of the prison management.

The ICF will also coordinate with the barangay council of Luzviminda in connection with the activities of the individuals who presented themselves as residents of the said barangay.

Allan Arzadon, BuCor team leader of the operation said ndividuals who presented themselves as members of the farmer groups are paying a certain fee which they could not state during the operation. The personnel of ICF found out that there are about 1,000 members of the farmers’ group.

“Sinasabi nila na samahan sila ng mga magsasaka, ‘yong mga pera na ginagastos ng mga tao, meron ata silang binabayaran na hindi naman masabi ng direkta kung ano. Kung hindi natin babantayan ito ay patuloy itong ganito sa area namin dito sa BuCor. Malamang lumipat na naman ng area ‘yan, maghahanap na naman sila,” Arzadon said.

Dandan Galuran, one of the farmers’ group members said that his involvement in the charcoal making is for him to buy rice for his family.

“Matagal na kami rito kahit wala pa ‘yang asosasyon na ‘yan. Opo (nag-uling) palakol lang (ginagamit) pambigas-bigas lang po ‘yan. Sa baryo lang (binibenta), sa mga kapitbahay lang, panggatong-gatong,” he said.

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