Op-Ed: Filipino Gov’t Asked to Cancel Permit of Large Logging Firm Special

Posted Jan 12, 2010 by Antonio Figueroa
MANILA – Copies of around 20,000 signatures seeking the cancellation of the permit granted to a large logging firm were endorsed and received yesterday at the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.
Signed by the residents of Gingoog, a small city in Southern Philippines, letter-manifesto sought the abrogation of the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA), covering at least 11,476 hectares, awarded to Southwoods Timber Corporation (STC), the largest firm engaged in logging in the entire Region X.
A copy of the petition was also received by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a sub-agency of DENR.
According to the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), ‘the IFMA is an agreement between the government and private entities allowed to exclusively "develop, manage, protect and utilize" a specific piece of "forest land of the public domain" for a period of 25 years (renewable for another 25). Under it, the government and the private company or individuals agree to share the fruits of the land.’
The move to cancel the permit actually stemmed from claims of illegal logging activities taking place inside Mt. Minalwang which, according to the petitioners, were committed without the consent of the indigenous peoples (IPs) residing in the area, adding that the grant of IFMA to SPC destroys critical areas considered as natural watersheds.
Under Philippines laws, companies operating in properties classified under the ancestral domain doctrine must first acquire a free-prior-and-informed-consent (FPIC) from the native claimants having jurisdiction over the forest area.
Already, the conflict between the logging firm and the indigenous residents have resulted in the killing of Alberto ‘Berting’ Pinagawa, an advocate against encroachment of logging firms in areas covered by a government-issued certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT).
According Carl Cesar C. Rebuta, one of the leaders of the petitioners, the murder of Pinagawa is not an isolated case. He failed, though, to mention if the incident was perpetrated by the accused logging company or the the handiwork of other parties.
Since 1988, according to him, there have already been 48 documented cases of Higaonon tribal leaders that “have been killed for being in the frontline of defense against human rights violations, development aggression and environmental protection.”
Pinagawa’s death, he added, also further fuels the fight of the IPs to remove large-scale plantations, mining interests, and logging firms found violating the rights of the natives.