By Dave S. Albarado
A member of a local group tasked to guard the reforestation efforts in Ubay town cried foul following what seems to be an utter disregard of the effort to regenerate the trees.
As this developed, alarm has raised in various fora including the Office of the Governor during the weekly media forum on the sad plight of the trees which were planted some two decades ago as an attempt to reforest the area.
Efren Bacsan, the vice-president of the Cabudlan Farmers Association (CFA), personally visited the Bohol Tribune office on Thursday to narrate the incident that could be described as a “massacre” of the trees in Ubay town.
Bacsan narrated that the town government was constructing a road from the upper down the lower part of Cabudlan farm, located in barangay San Pascual, Ubay.
He said the people were given permission to cut trees, which may eventually be damaged due to the road construction anyway, back in April 2017.
However, some may have cut too many as trees were cut not just along the project but also those located near the river.
“I asked our DENR assistor named Leah about the situation and she explained to me that DENR also permitted to cut trees near the mango trees so that it will bear fruit but regarding the trees near rivers were not permitted. She also stated that we cannot complain anymore to the DENR office because we didn’t take any pictures of the cut trees (evidence). So, we let it go (the situation),” said Bacsan.
Bacsan said on September 14, he went to his farm in Cabudlan to get somethingand saw trees growing near the river sawn off in different sizes.
He complained to the DENR that a certain member of the CFA was cutting trees. He was told a certain police officer sent a letter to the DENR office asking for some lumber. The DENR then wrote to the CFA president approving the request for lumber and even stated the number of trees to be provided. Bascan alleged the trees were cut even without the letter from the CFA approving the request.
The person from the DENR advised Bascan to contact a forest ranger. The forest ranger was identified as a certain Albert Mier.
Bacsan said Mier was unable to come due to a prior commitment. Leah then assured the member about the situation and to inform the forest rangers.
He then went to the police station to ask about the lumber the police allegedly needed. The police said they needed lumber since the ones they got are from dead coconut trees and only a truckload was delivered.
Bacsan wondered why there was only a truckload delivered when the cutting allegedly persisted for a week or more. He then saw the DENR representative taking pictures of the project of the association that started back in 2016. Bascan asked the representative if pictures of the cut trees were also taken and “she answered yes.” He alleged that was the last time the representative communicated with him.
Shockingly, last Sunday, the CFA president allegedly called a meeting and removed some 10 members of the association–including Bacsan. He and some others were removed from the association and the reasons were unknown.
Bacsan managed to call former Bohol Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Nestor Canda who in turn advised him to write a letter to the DENR regional director about the situation. Bacsan alleged he also called up the police to narrate what happened.
A certain Allan Along said he contacted the Tagbilaran office of the DENR, but was told to call the DENR-Talibon office.
The Talibon office assured Along that the cutting of trees in Cabudlan even near the rivers was allowed. The reply from the office shocked Along knowing that it is a violation of the law to cut trees 20 meters from the river.
Along was also wondering why the sudden turn around since the DENR has been sponsoring projects to be undertaken by the CFA to plant more trees in an effort to reforest the area.
To verify, Bacsan asked the group’s secretary about the news that he was removed from the membership rolls. The news was confirmed, he said.
Bascan and Along then started to document the cutting of trees. While doing some documentation, the duo saw a white truck. Bacsan then called the police and asked if the lumber has been delivered. He found out the lumber has been earlier delivered. The white truck was the one that delivered the lumber and the same that was spotted gathering sawn lumber near the river, Bascan said.
The police told Bacsan to send out his men to investigate, but that was the end of that story.
More or less 137 assorted trees were allegedly cut down including narra, tipolo, gita, mahogany, gemelina, awri and some unidentified tree species.
Bacsan went to the media to facilitate the clearance of the activity considering there might be something wrong with the cutting of trees, which were planted in support of the government’s National Greening Program.
He wanted to know why the trees were cut as he wanted to ask the regional office why the trees were cut. There were allegations that some government officials are being prevented to go to the areas where the trees there have been cut down, he said.
He ended by saying he is just concerned about the environment and wants to go to the bottom of the case.
Bacsan, who is also a pastor, forwarded copies of his letter to the DENR regional director to the local Bohol Environment Management Office (BEMO) and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office located in Cortes town.
The hope is that these government agencies can look at the possible violations of the law regarding the cutting of trees.
Acting Provincial Administrator Mitchel John Boiser already gave a verbal order to the BEMO to conduct an investigation on the matter.
As of Saturday night, BEMO personnel had visited the deforested area in Cabudlan, San Pascual, Ubay town. The personnel took pictures and noted in their findings in a letter to be sent to the DENR-Bohol and DENR-Central Visayas.
Meanwhile, a certain Dionesia Baculi, president of the farmers’ association in San Pascual, Ubay, has surfaced as one of the persons who would be called in for the upcoming investigation.
Sources said Baculi has a son-in-law who is not a just a chainsaw-owner but is also allegedly engaged in the “business of selling lumber.”