Monday, February 20, 2012

Ranao Civil Society Leaders Face the Media

Special Report by Muhammad d Salahuddin

February 17, 2012-

A press conference with the theme: “TRUTH ABOUT LIES: LANAO PERSPECTIVE ON THE DESTRUCTION BROUGHT BY SENDONG” was successfully held at Brewberry Cafe ,Divisoria, Cagayan De Oro City. The event is in response to the allegation of  local government officials particularly Mayor  Vicente ‘Dongkoy’ Emano of Cagayan de Oro City and Mayor Lawrence Cruz of Iligan City, National Government and some members of the media that logging in Lanao is to be blamed for the destruction brought by Typhoon Sendong last September 16-17, 2011.

Typhoon Sendong  (international name ‘Washi’)  was the deadliest natural  disaster that hit the Philippines in 2011;  it affected about 30 thousand families and thousands perished  in that tragedy.

“Sendong was a tropical storm, a natural disaster. Whatever came its way would have been washed away, be they houses, cars or even trees.  How come it is being blamed on us?” asked Engr. Pipalawan O. Naga an environmental activist for more than 20 years based in Lanao del Sur.

Engr. Naga also belied the claim that the logs that killed many in some parts of Iligan City was stockpiled in Kapai, Lanao del Sur. “It may be true that the logs were cut illegally from Lanao, but it is possible and it is our claim that prior to December 16,2011 the logs were already stockpiled in Iligan City. We challenge anybody to present evidence that Lanao is to be blamed for  the destruction brought by Sendong.

An article published at last December 31,2011 said that the task force created by ARMM-OIC Mujiv Hataman reported that VicMar, a Makati based logging firm, had been stockpiling timber in its log pond in the Kapai-Bayug river (ILIGAN) junction before processing these in its sawmill in Barangay Hinaplanon in Iligan City, which is along the Mandulog River.
“So after the logs were stocked at the log pond, these logs will be naturally drifted away to Iligan City through the Mandulog River,” the task force said.
“Only VicMar has been in operation in the area since 1975,” the task force further said.
VicMar, the task force said, got a Timber License Agreement for 18,730 hectares of forests in Kapai and Tagoloan II on Nov. 27, 1975. It expired on June 30, 1997, but VicMar applied for an IFMA. The IFMA, issued on March 25, 1996, reduced VicMar’s area of operations to 6,795 hectares. and would expire on March 24, 2021.

Vicmar’s  known owner is Vicente L. Angliongto,  former president of  the Philippine Chamber of Commerce. It was learned that Vicente L. Angliongto accompanied the late former president Cory Aquino, mother of now President Noynoy Aquino, in her first visit to United States of America in 1987. “We have the suspicion that the owner of said firm holds a special relationship with the Aquino family and this may be the reason why until now no case had been filed against them,”  said Drieza A. Lininding of BMYM.

Mr. Lininding also chided Mayor Vicente Emano of Cagayan de Oro for blaming logging in Lanao for the destruction suffered by his city. ” We really don’t see the connection of Lanao to CdO (referring to the drainage map presented by Engr.PIP NAGA earlier in the conference)”.

The organizers of the said conference advised Mayor Emano to instead turn to Plantation, Mining and logging companies as the causes in the destruction brought by Sendong.

A relevant article published at last December 22,2011 said that Francis Morales of the environmental group Panalipdan Mindanao pointed out that the vulnerability of the area (Cagayan de oro) increased because of the land conversion of watershed areas to benefit pineapple and jathropa plantations. This has been supported by a 2009 study by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences of CDO’s susceptibility to floods. It revealed the increased vulnerability of downstream communities after the conversion of 2,000 hectares of the Upper Pulangi Watershed’s forest cover into a pineapple plantation owned by Del Monte Philippines, Inc.

I has to be noted that Martin Ignacio Lorenzo of Del Monte Phillippines donated P20 million during Noynoy Aquino’s  presidential campaign in 2010.

One of those who organized and was present in the press conference, Ms. Hamida G. Guro of Young Moro Professionals Network Inc. (Northern Mindanao), appealed to the media to help reveal the truth. “Kami na ang biktima, kami pa ang sinisisi,” lamented Ms. Guro in Tagalog.

Since the Sendong tragedy happened, Lanao del Sur has been subjected to many operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There were reported cases of human rights violations by soldiers like illegal search, confiscation, and harassment. Timber products including those already processed were considered illegal by the AFP particularly the 103rd BDE based in Lanao del Sur.  Some furniture shops and hardware stores had to close down for fear of being the subject of said operations. As a result, the people of Lanao del Sur need to go down to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro to buy those timber products needed for construction.

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