Kalilangan lumber trader charged for transporting ‘excess’ forest products

MALAYBALAY CITY – (Bukidnon News Dispatch/27 September) The Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office of Malaybalay filed charges against the owner of a truck from Kalilangan town that transported naturally grown forest products beyond allowable excess.

According to the criminal complaint filed by Leon C. Equipelag, special forestry prosecutor, before the Office of the City Prosecutor on Sept. 19, a copy was obtained by Bukidnon News on Sept. 27, Julieta Edma and Eric Chester Edma are accused of violating the Revised Forestry Code as amended by EO 277 in relation to Art. 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

Felix Mirasol, chief of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office – Malaybalay, admitted this is one of the notable forest product apprehensions after President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive order no. 23, in February this year, declaring a moratorium on logging in national and residual forests in order to prevent its destructive effects and protect watersheds and river systems.

The truck carried about 440 pieces of lumber made from trees of the varieties Nato, Igem, Red Lauan, and White Lauan scaled for a total of 10,203.48 board feet. The DENR said the load exceeded the 2 percent allowed excess in number pieces and volume based on the trucker’s manifested volume and number authorized by the DENR.

Based on the Certificate of Lumber Origin presented by Edma, the third of three issued to them by the DENR, the truck was supposed to carry 364 pieces for a total of 8,270.86 board feet only. Equipelag cited that the excess made the “entire shipment considered illegal due to fraudulent misrepresentation with intent to prejudice the government as provided under Section 4a and b of the DENR administrative order No. 97-32.”

“As such the accused considerably did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and criminally possessed undocumented Nato, Igem, Red Lauan, and White Lauan …, without having first secured valid transport permit from the DENR Secretary or his duly authorized representative” he added in the complaint penned down on Sept. 15, a day after CENRO Malaybalay chief Felix Mirasol presided on a multi-agency, multi-party/administrative deliberation to hear the case. Mirasol clarified to Bukidnon News that the excess load made the permit invalid.

The DENR put the value of the forest products at P3.061 million, including the “10 times moral and exemplary damages prejudice” to the DENR.

The complaint is pending at the City Prosecutor’s Office of Malaybalay as of Sept. 27, 2011.

The police’s Provincial Public Safety Command (PPSC) apprehended Edma’s truck by 7p.m. on Sept. 12 initially on the basis of a “no plate, no travel policy” violation. The 10-wheeler truck did not have a truck number plate at the back when it passed a check point in Sumpong, this city.

Police chased the truck up to a point in Kalasungay, the next village. When caught up, Eric Edma, the driver, immediately took a plate and put it at the rear side. But he could not yield a driver’s license and the vehicle registration papers.

That led to the query on the legality of the load’s papers. Police initially did not know the truck carried forest products because it was concealed by rice hulls under the tarp. CENRO Malaybalay officials who interrogated the driver later said they did not scrutinize the transport paper of the lumber dealer because they have obtained permit from CENRO Pangantucan, which covers Kalilangan.

In the deliberation, CENRO Pangantucan chief Vergilino Alima said they conducted inventory of the forest products in the saw mill and on June 5 his office granted Edma’s request for the issuance of the CTOs.

Alima said Edma is a permitee for a resawmill and mini sawmill. He added that they obtained a log supply contract with a firm in Lanao del Sur. He said they were allowed to transport the forest tree species. He said Edma requested for CLO in a letter because when the national logging moratorium was implemented they were unable to process trees already in their possession.

Col. Reinheart Pingol, head of the police’s PPSC, noted the difference in the dimensions of the lumbers in the inventory of CENRO Pangantucan before the transport and the CENRO Malaybalay after the apprehension.

In her defense, Edma said the CENRO personnel who took charge of the inventory might have missed some forest products in another storage area, which CENRO personnel denied in the deliberation on Sept. 14.

Mirasol reminded Edma that she should have reported the excess load because it was illegal.

Forester Leonrado Buted of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office cited Edma’s intention to get official transport document. “Sa ako lang tagaan nato og chance naa ra sa ato pero kong dili, atong iimplementar ang balaod (For me, its up to us if we give her a chance, if not, then we have to implement the law),” he told the administrative deliberation as quoted in the minutes.

But Pingol insisted that if Edma is indeed in the business for long then she should have declared the excess load. “I guess duna siyay intent nga mag illegal (she intends to go illegal),” he stressed in response to the PENRO official’s comment. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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