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P-Noy says illegal loggers “walang konsensya”, bats for a total log ban

THE PRESIDENT’S MAN. While the honor of officially welcoming Pres. Aquino to Ormoc airport before he took his connecting flight to St. Bernard town was given to Leyte governor Carlos Jericho Petilla and Ormoc Mayor Eric Codilla (photo above), P-Noy himself took a sideturn to warmly greet Liberal Party-mate Vincent Rama, brother-in-law of Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez and scion of the Rama clan in Cebu. P-Noy, upon leaving Ormoc, also told Rama that he was bent on pursuing illegal loggers operating in Ormoc and nearby towns, one of the areas pinpointed by a Task Force Kalikasan probe where rampant deforestation is happening with the backing of powerful persons.

ORMOC CITY – Pres. Benigno Aquino III, in a press conference at the airport here during his brief stopover from an ocular inspection of St. Bernard town in Southern Leyte Friday morning (January 14) told reporters that long term solutions were needed to the countries recurring floodings and landslide problems.
Among these, he said, was to call for a total log ban and to run after illegal loggers and their powerful backers.
The president landed at the airport here together with social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman and DILG secretary Jessie Robredo. P-Noy and Soliman proceeded to St. Bernard by chopper with Leyte governor Carlos Jericho Petilla, Regional Development Council chairman, while Robredo remained at the airport.
Cabinet members also flew in on a second plane but stayed at the Ormoc airport. They were public works secretary Rogelio Singzon, agricultural secretary Jesus Alcala, national defense secretary Voltaire Gasmin. Also with them were Usec Benito Ramos of the Office of Civil Defence Benito Ramos and An Waray party list representatives Florencio Noel and Neil Benedict Montejo.
Aquino, who has been hopping over the country for a personal inspection of ravaged areas due to the tailend of a cold front that has caused heavy rains in various provinces, added that he would also be finalizing on Monday an executive order that would pave the way to a total log ban in the country.
He said his aerial visits showed the mountains in the ravaged areas were badly deforested and other areas planted to coconut already, which had poor water holding capacity.
Showing media printed pictures of confiscated illegal logs in Mindanao, he said that there is no doubt that massive illegal logging is going on in the country. He added that while he would also call for a massive reforestation, there was a need to preserve the trees that remain because “kung puno pinutol mo, putol na yan”.
He also called illegal loggers as “walang konsensiya” and that his administration would run after them without let up. “We preserve what there is” because reforestation, he said, has little effect to alleviate the situation yet because these would just be very small trees. “Maliliit pa ‘yan”, he said.
On the other hand, the president said that the purpose why he has been hopping around the country to see for himself the ravaged areas is to assess whether “naasikaso bang lahat” and “may kailangan pa bang dapat gawin”.
He said that during the brief assessment he did with his secretaries before meeting the press, it was agreed that a more detailed assessment of high risk areas should be done to be more specific in pinpointing the locations. He said that the map showed to him was a 1:250,000 scale, saying it was inaccurate and he wanted a 1:10,000 scale map which would pinpoint high risk areas within a community.
He added that he would also be studying the recommendations on what solutions are needed to be implemented and what would be a longlasting one, and that is when the government looks for money and implements it.
He said that during his visit to St. Bernard, Cong. Roger Mercado had his reccomendation , the mayor had his, and the governor had his. He said they will assess which was the best and this one would be funded.
As far as St. Bernard town is concerned, he said that it is unfortunate three people were killed again in a landslide. He said it was not a natural disaster anymore, but a disaster that could have been prevented.
He noted that the town, which saw the whole village of Guinsaugon buried in a mudslide one rainy day on February three years ago, had relocated the village and survivors but it was still a location that could be considered precarious.
Another example that he cited that needed a more in-depth study and long term solution is the Kennon road leading to Baguio City. He said that the road is very prone to landslides but year in and year out, the government simply repairs it, instead of validating if it is the best place to put a road.
The president said that there was much to be done, if long term solutions were to be made but the immediate order of the day was to ensure that access to ravaged areas are maintained and cleared, so that relief and rehabilitation efforts are unhampered.
He also lauded the leadership of Mayor Rico Rentuza, the only Liberal Party mayor in So. Leyte. for not merely relying on government to respond to their distress call. He noted that the town reached out even to non-government organizations, which readily answered to their call for help.
On the other hand, Vincent Rama, brother-in-law of Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez and Liberal Party coordinator for the 4th district during the campaign, said he was told by the president that he wanted more information on the illegal logging that has been going on in Ormoc and neighboring towns.
To recall, a special task force was here in the city around three months ago, to verify reports of massive systematic logging of the mountains. Personalities behind have also been pinpointed.
Rama, who accompanied  the president on the tarmac on the way back to the plane, said Aquino was really concerned about the continued degradation of the environment which makes the country more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Rama and wife Caren, Lucy’s sister, said the congresswoman and Richard Gomez could not be around to welcome the President because they were busy finalizing for Lucy’s surgical mission on January 30 to February 5. Caren said they were overwhelmed at the number of patients from the district needing medical help that the 600 slots given to them by the Fil-American Surgeons Assocation in the US was filled up in just nine days.
Caren said that much as Lucy would want to help more, the three hospitals can only accommodate 600 patients. By Lalaine Marcos-Jimenea

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