29 June 2012

In line with the intensified campaign against illegal logging activities, as declared by no less than President Benigno S. Aquino III himself, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now looking into the possibility that suppliers of transportation services, including owners and operators of container vans, are acting in complicity with illegal loggers in knowingly violating the indefinite total log ban now in effect all over the country pursuant to Executive Order No. 23, s.2011.

In connection with this, the DOJ is also studying the possibility of seizing and confiscating, not just lumber harvested in contravention of the log ban, but also the vehicles, particularly container vans, that were used in transporting the same, which thus possibly served as instrumentalities of the crime.

This course of action being considered by the DOJ was prompted by the successful operations conducted yesterday, June 28, by a team from the NCRand Environmental and Wildlife Protection Investigation Division (EWPID) of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at Pier 16 in North Harbor, Manila. Said operation led to the interception of fifty-five (55) container vans suspected of containing good lumber transported from Davao to Manila. Shipping documents for the container vans state that they were supposed to be transporting cement, but initial inspection has confirmed otherwise. Four (4) of the 55 were already about to be released by Bureau of Customs agents at Pier 16, but
timely action by the NBI team led to the discovery of the lumber and the apparent false declaration in the shipping documents. Release of the container vans were then put on hold, and inspection of all 55 verified that they all contained lumber. Further investigation is presently being conducted.

The DOJ is exploring the possibility of seizing and confiscating the vehicles along with their cargo after Secretary RAMON JESUS P. PAJE, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), noted the growing prevalence of the use of cargo vans and similar vehicles to covertly transport illegally logged lumber all over the country.

"People cannot commit acts that facilitate and aid the persistent violation of the total log ban and expect to go scot free," Justice Secretary LEILA M. DE LIMA said. "It is quite probable that some of these transportation service providers are knowingly assisting illegal loggers by providing the means for covertly transporting contraband goods, thus
allowing violators to continue profiting from their illegal activities. Yet, they seem to think that just because they are not the ones cutting the trees that they cannot be held accountable for their participation, whether as co-conspirators or otherwise, in the violation of the log ban. We mean to disabuse them of such notion."

Secretary De Lima further said, "Wehope that this course of action we are presently exploring would serve as an additional deterrent against those who hope to profit, one way or another, from illegally harvested lumber products. Even transport service providers have a responsibility to support the campaign against illegal logging by being more
discriminating with regard to the kind of people they deal with and the cargo they transport. "

It will be remembered that illegal logging is one of the factors believed to have contributed to the devastation caused by Typhoon Sendong in the Southern Philippines less than seven (7) months ago.


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