Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje reiterated today’s (Feb. 28) deadline for timber firms in transporting all inventoried timber harvested from natural and residual forests as set in Resolution No. 6 of the National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (NAILTF).

“Effective March 1, 2012, all logs and lumber that are confiscated and found to have been derived from the country’s natural and residual forests shall be considered state property,” said the secretary, who chairs the NAILTF. He added that the confiscated products would then be turned over to the Department of Education for conversion into school chairs and desks.

Timber licensees had been granted a 90-day extension period, from November 28, 2011 to February 28 of this year to be able to transport their products, provided that they had paid the necessary forest charges prior to May 21, 2011.

In relation to this, Paje also bared that the apprehending teams of the NAILTF would now be fielded with police and military personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for firepower, and forestry and legal officers from the DENR and the Department of Justice (DOJ) “to provide the technical and legal muscle.”

“This new approach to fight illegal logging is seen to ensure convictions in court cases filed against illegal loggers,” he said. To date, the implementation of the EO has seen the confiscation of 12,014,244 board feet of illegally-harvester forest products, and the filing of 461 cases against forestry law violators.

Paje expressed optimism that the new strategy will “effectively shield DENR field forestry officers as all operations of NAILTF’s regional operatives are directly under the regional counterparts of the NAILTF.”

Paje said all coordination and planning efforts pertaining to apprehension and intelligence work of the Regional Anti-illegal Logging Task Forces (RAILTFs) will be under the watch and supervision of the NAILTF’s central command post at the DENR central office in Quezon City headed by its executive director (ret) Major General Renato Miranda.

“We will keep our AILTF teams the best-trained, best-led, best equipped fighting force in our history of guarding the rights of the state to her forest land and forest resources,” said Paje, noting that the offensive will see a shift away from DENR field personnel the burden of pursuing an aggressive campaign against illegal loggers which resulted in the slaying of forestry officers.

Paje reiterated plans to shift focus to “a more razor-sharp” face of government’s campaign against illegal loggers, with an emphasis on strengthening DENR’s in-house capabilities to fight illegal logging to its advocacy of citizen participation in its advocacy on reforestation and community-led management of forest resources.

"As I made clear in the National Greening Program, saving our forests can only happen with real participation from the people, especially our forest-based communities. It will not come at the expense of the lives of our co-workers at the DENR or any life for that matter,” Paje said.

The NAILTF was created under Executive Order No. 23 issued by President Benigno Aquino III. It is composed of the secretaries of the DENR, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), the PNP Chief, and the AFP Chief of Staff.