By Mike Crismundo
CANTILAN, Surigao del Sur – Officials and agents of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday swooped down on reported sawmill furniture shops and seized more than 35,000 lauan lumbers and narra species in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur province, forestry officials reported Thursday.
Five persons were also arrested, two of them reportedly the owners of the said furniture shops. They are facing charges of violation of the forestry laws rules and regulations, particularly PD 705 otherwise known as the Forestry Code of the Philippines.
The identities of the suspects are temporarily withheld pending the arrest of their other companions.
The suspects were surprised when the NBI agents and the enforcement personnel of the DENR arrived in the area on Tuesday and shut down the furniture shops situated at Barangay Kabangsan, Cantilan town, Surigao del Sur province.
Armed with a search warrant issued by Judge Catalina Shineta M. Tare-Palacio of Regional Trail Court 11th Judicial Region, Branch 41, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur dated Jan. 18, 2019, the DENR and NBI personnel immediately seized the forest products and other conveyances when the owners failed to show pertinent documents, including the required permit to operate the sawmill from the DENR, according to DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Ruel Efren.
“They have been operating secretly for several years but their illegal operations have been exposed lately,” Efren said.
DENR 13 Regional Executive Director Atty. Felix S. Alicer estimated the value of the illegal lumber products and equipment at more than P 1 million
DENR personnel confiscated all equipment and apparatus inside the two sawmill shops which included planers and band saws and the more than 35,000 bd. feet of lumbers of lauan and narra species. DENR 13 Enforcement head Forester Modesto Lagumbay said the lumad poachers usually bring their illegally-cut lumbers to a secret meeting place at the furniture shops during night time.
Lagumbay said the poachers usually transport the illegal lumber through improvised-motorcycles locally known as “habal-habal.” They drop the hot lumber products in the shop and collect the proceeds later.
The operators of the said sawmill furniture shops admitted they were lured by the offer of the poachers on “deliver now and pay later” scheme.