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Paje: Log ban non-negotiable

by Othel V. Campos
[ ] June 20, 2011

The Environment Department is encouraging big-scale loggers to go into tree plantation instead, saying the government has no plan of lifting the logging ban.

“The decision to lift the [logging] ban will be dependent on the President. As far as the President is concerned, the ban is a non-negotiable issue,” Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje said over the weekend.

He said the government would assist those whose livelihood was replaced by Executive Order No. 23, or the moratorium on timber harvesting in natural and residual forest, in identifying lands they can use as plantation areas.

The department said it would support existing tree plantations to help increase the country’s wood production at a sustainable level. Increased output will lessen the country’s dependence on imported wood.

The government is also persuading those affected by the logging ban to replant trees in their own lots, however small.

“It’s small scale but nevertheless will help them keep their livelihood, send their kids to school, pay their bills,” Paje said.

The department said it was not inclined to grant the request of tree planters and wood processors to reverse a provision of EO 23 that effectively lengthened the wood supply contracts for tree and planted species to five years, instead of one year.

“If that is their request, then they need to speak directly to the President. It is only the President who can hear and grant their petition,” said Paje.

Tree planters and wood processors argued that long-term-supply contracts did not guarantee sustainability and were subject to more problems like pole vaulting and price fixing, while one-year supply contracts for tree planted species were more practical and sustainable.

Tree planters and wood processors also asked the government to give back to the Environment regional office the authority to evaluate wood processing permits of those operating in tree plantations.

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