Local Official Blames Illegal Logging for Floods in Southern Philippines

Local Official Blames Illegal Logging for Floods in Southern Philippines

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MANILA, Phils. -- Rampant illegal logging activities in the mountains of northern Mindanao may have caused the heavy flooding during the onslaught of tropical storm Sendong [International name: Washi] last Friday evening to early Saturday, a local official said Sunday.

Mayor Vicente Emano of Cagayan De Oro City, one of the areas heavily affected by the storm, said the disaster that hit his constituents could have been prevented if illegal logging activities in the mountains surrounding the city were stopped a long time ago.

“Palagi na ho akong nagsasalita na ihinto itong illegal logging pero hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin nahihinto. Nagpapatuloy pa rin (I have always spoken out, demanding a stop to illegal logging but until now, it has not been halted...It still continues.),” he said in an interview over GMA News TV.

He added that the dwindling forest cover in the area could no longer prevent rainwater from the mountains from flowing downstream to rivers, causing flash floods in low-lying areas.

“Hindi naman gaano kalakas ang ulan dito. Ang nangyari nito, ‘yung buhos n'ung ulan doon sa bundok, nag-flash flood. Pagdating dito, bigla na lang laki ng ilog namin… Ang nangyayari rito, wala na nakakapigil na mga kahoy sa tubig galing sa bundok (The rain was not that strong. What happened here was, that rainfall landed on the mountains and created flash floods. When the water came down to our province, the rivers swelled...What happened was there were no longaer any trees to help absorb the flood waters,)” Emano said.

Emano proposed that a moratorium on all logging activities in northern Mindanao should be declared after the disaster caused by Sendong, which killed more than 300 people, many of them children.

A total of 332 people have been confirmed dead due to flash floods caused by Sendong, based on latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) as of Sunday afternoon. The Philippine National Red Cross, however, has already pegged Sendong’s death toll to 521.

Last February, President Benigno Aquino III declared a total log ban in the country, but illegal logging activities continue in northern Mindanao.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in the region said last month that it was able to confiscate some P4 million worth of timber from illegal loggers in the area from February to November this year.