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Onto the third week of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in MIMAROPA has apprehended in separate locations in the region, abandoned lumber which were believed to be illegally cut while the entire country was observing extreme measures to fight COVID-19.

On March 22, the Monitoring and Enforcement Section of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro apprehended and hauled in Sitio Anduyanan and Sitio San Pablo in Brgy. Alipaoy, Paluan town a total of 880.28 board feet of Amugis, Lauan and Banuyo. These premium species of trees are used for construction and furniture-making.

“We have to retrieve the lumber immediately, otherwise, the perpetrators would get them back, or other people might take them for personal use,” said Ernesto Tañada, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) in Occidental Mindoro.

As part of administrative proceedings, a notice was left in the area for any claimant to show proof of ownership of the apprehended lumber. The items were then transported to CENRO Sablayan Coordinating Office in Mamburao for documentation, confiscation, and custody of the lumber.

Similarly, DENR employees in Sibuyan, Romblon, apprehended on March 23 and 24, Apitong lumber with a total volume of 266 bd ft in Brgy. Espana in San Fernando town. Two days after, with the help of the Philippine National Police, the team also retrieved 120 bd ft of red Lauan abandoned in Brgy. Mabini.

“It is difficult at these times, but we continue to be on call 24/7 to protect our forests,” Romblon PENR Officer Maximo Landrito expressed.

Meanwhile in Palawan, the Forest Product Monitoring Station of CENRO Taytay recovered 10 sacks of charcoal of mangrove species in Brgy. Aberawan, El Nido on March 16. The group also apprehended 10 sacks of charcoal of Forest Tree species abandoned at Sitio Talogon, Brgy. Bagong-bayan in Taytay on March 21.

“Our team likewise responded to a slash and burn (kaingin) cultivation in Sitio Sablayan, Brgy. Pancol, also in Taytay on March 23. The incident shall be under further investigation as we have already identified the owner of the lot, as well as those who initiated the activity,” Taytay CENR Officer Alan Valle reported.

In light of the imposition of ECQ, government workers in the executive branch were ordered to work from home and maintain skeletal workforces to respond to essential and urgent services. DENR MIMAROPA, in consonance with the pronouncements of Civil Service Commission and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, has arranged for alternative working arrangements to ensure continuous delivery of service and safety of personnel at the same time.

“While most of us are at home, that does not stop us from being on the lookout on anyone violating nature,” DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado said. “We know that illegal loggers would take advantage of the situation so we strengthen our monitoring and enforcement teams through the LGUs and communities to prevent violators from succeeding in their unlawful activities,” he added.

RED Adornado meanwhile thanked the communities for keeping a watchful eye on the environment. CENRO Sablayan received a tip on the abandoned lumber from a concerned citizen. CENRO Taytay on the other hand, was informed of the illegal activities through social media.

The director clarified that DENR MIMAROPA takes precautionary measures whenever it deploys quick response teams to ensure the health and safety of its personnel as well as the community they are responding to.

“Defending nature is a daunting task, especially during these times. That is why we laud our personnel in the field for doing their job in the midst of this ECQ. We are also grateful knowing that as we all grapple with this dreaded disease, the public remains our constant partner in protecting our environment and natural resources,” he concluded. (With reports and photos from CENRO Sablayan, CENRO Taytay and PENRO Romblon) ###