Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The 300-hectare virgin forest of Sitio Wilderness in Barangay Damutan, Hinobaan that has been deliberately left untouched by the Insular Lumber Company to serve has a wildlife habitat has almost been wiped out by poachers. The unabated destruction of the forest has left the area with only 14 hectares of old growth, mostly endangered trees.
Located 60 kilometers from the poblacion of Hinobaan, the Wilderness area has lost an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 board feet of lumber worth an estimated P16 million to the illegal loggers who have been operating with impunity for years. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources believes the illegally-cut timber is transported by poachers through rafting in the Culipapa and Basay rivers in Hinobaan, Negros Occidental and Bayawan in Negros Oriental and is sold to fishermen for use in making boat hulls. It would also be easy to assume that a lot of this illegally logged high value hardwood ultimately makes its way to Filipino homes.
Hinobaan Mayor Ernesto Estrao, Negros Occ. Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and DENR officials are all expressing dismay and promising punitive action against those responsible for decimating our virgin forests. They are also instituting additional protective measures for whatever is left of the Wilderness area but with hundreds, if not thousands of endangered trees lost and only 14 hectares of forest remaining, this is a classic case of government officials closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted.
People who ask the question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” should visit what is left of the virgin forest in Sitio Wilderness to see what happens to a virgin forest when the government is not around to protect it.
As we mourn the loss of our forests, let us remain vigilant and continue to remind our government officials of their promise to protect what little is left of our old growth forests and bring the illegal logging syndicates to justice.*