Cimatu orders probe of all forest management licenses

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday ordered a review of all the 104 companies that were granted Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs) with the DENR to prevent any recurrence of the environmental degradation similar to flash floods and mudslides that occurred in Zamboanga Peninsula last December.

Under the IFMA, companies are allowed to establish industrial tree plantations in the area but are restricted to cut residual trees unless authorized by the DENR Secretary.

Secretary Cimatu especially cited need for compliance and performance evaluation of the IFMA sites, which included Dacon Group of Companies, which was ordered to stop operations of its two companies, the South Davao Development C. Inc, (SODACO) and the Sirawai Plywood & Lumber Corp (SPLC) in Sibuco town.

The DENR’s order came after President Duterte blamed these companies for the flash floods and mudslides that killed dozens of people in Zamboanga Del Norte at the height of Typhoon Vinta.

Cimatu said that while several companies have stopped operating, there are reports of illegal poaching in these IFMA sites.

“We will make them (the IFMA holders) accountable if we find that there were violations in what are supposed to be their obligation to help manage the forest, and not to be the culprit behind such environmental degradation,” Cimatu said.

Of the 104 IFMAs across the country, the DENR said that 40 were in Luzon, 13 in Visayas and 51 in Mindanao. It was also gathered that there 10 IFMAs were issued in Region 9 where the flash floods occurred.

Meanwhile, Cimatu gave the 12-member DENR probe team until Friday (Jan. 12)to complete its investigation of the Dacon areas that were cited as deforested portion of the Zamboanga mountain range that was shown to President Duterte.

According to initial reports from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)in Zamboanga, the frontline unit of DENR, the video of the deforested portion was believed to be the site preparation of SODACO, one of the two firms suspended by the Environment chief.

Under the IFMA, the DACON companies were allowed to establish industrial tree plantations in the area, but restricted to cut residual trees unless authorized by the DENR Secretary. ###