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Soldiers place the coffin of a dead child into a grave on the Sierra Mountain range leading into the town of Real, in Quezon province.

At least 600 others were killed in Real and nearby towns as a storm triggered flooding and mudslides in the Philippines' eastern seaboard.

Photo: AFP/Jay Directo

Soldiers place the coffin of a dead child into a grave on the Sierra Mountain range leading into the town of Real, in Quezon province.  At least 600 others were killed in Real and nearby towns as a storm triggered flooding and mudslides in the Philippines' eastern seaboard.

background...

“The report [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] virtually absolves illegal loggers of their culpability.   Whoever wrote that report should be dismissed.   Apparently, the writer was unaware about the data collected by government agencies on illegal logging in Quezon and Nueva Ecija and the aerial photographs taken by the DENR of forests destroyed by illegal logging earlier in the year.

In the Philippines, forest rangers catch only the small-time tree cutters.   Meanwhile, the big bosses continue to decimate trees and count their illicit profit.

...the government should hunt down all illegal loggers, prosecute and imprison them.   We know who these people are but the problem is many of them have “connections” and some are in the government.”

The Manila Times


 



The Manila Times

Friday, December 03, 2004

Personal dreams

REAL, Quezon — Richard Seles, a kainginero (slash-and-burn farmer), struggled to keep tears at bay as he frantically dug a shallow grave for his infant son with a small shovel on a mountain pass.

Lying on the muddy ground was a small wooden box wrapped tightly in plastic containing his son, his second child, who was stillborn at the height of a landslide on Wednesday.

The baby was also named Richard.   The 37-year-old father had hoped to send him to university so he could help the small family earn a decent living instead of cutting down trees in the hills and growing small plots of vegetables.

“He was my boy.   I had wanted him to become successful.   I had a lot of dreams for him.   But the mountain has claimed him,” Seles told Agence France-Presse as he sadly watched soldiers lower the coffin into the shallow grave.

“That will only be a dream now.”

Other villagers had also buried three bodies dug out from under tons of rubble.   Their identities were unknown.

A deadly cocktail of mud, floodwater and boulders had crashed into Seles’ hillside home in the village of Tanawan near this town east of Manila on Wednesday as his young wife was in labor.

Extreme fear, exhaustion and the roaring, thunder-like scream of the moving ground had brought the baby on weeks before its due date, Seles said.

“She was terrified and it’s the mountain that caused her to go into labor prematurely,” said Seles, a small wiry man who has been farming the Sierra Madre mountain range looming above Real for decades.

“It is God’s will.   I haven’t seen anything quite like it before.”

“We were lucky to be alive,” he said, adding that his wife was being cared for by his other child, a 10-year-old girl, in a safer place further up the highway.

He said he would return to recover his son’s body from the shallow pit when the weather clears.   His only landmark for the grave is a small guava tree that had survived strong winds overnight.

Tractors and bulldozers were nearby struggling to clear debris that had blocked the main highway to the center of town, where many more bodies were believed lying in a state of decomposition after floods.

As Seles grieved over his son, men and women were digging through mud where three people were believed to have been buried.

Real and the nearby towns of Infanta and General Nakar were the worst hit by storms that battered Luzon Island in recent days.   It is a region of about 110,000 people, which accounted for nearly 90 percent of the estimated 600 dead or missing.

The mountain highway to Real remained blocked by huge boulders that had been washed down by floods.   In one section near Seles’ home, half of the road had turned into an unstable cliff strewn with logs.

Water cascading from the slopes had transformed a brook into swollen rapids.

Soldiers and journalists struggling to reach the town center by road passed by a small brick house perilously overhanging a cliff.

But the family refused to leave.   “We don’t have anywhere else to go anyway and inside it’s still warm,” said the father, who refused to give his name, but offered everyone boiled cassava rootcrops.

Seles blames lumber companies, which allegedly operate illegally on the mountain for the disaster.

“What I can say is that it is illegal.   Please stop it.   People are dying,” he said, but was quick to defend slash-and-burn farmers who only farm a small portion of the mountain.

“We only farm to live and eat.   Not to destroy the mountain.”


--AFP


Copyright (c) 2004 The Manila Times | The Manila Times Publishing Corp.    All rights reserved.








Many hundreds, perhaps a thousand dead, many missing after two storms tore through the Philippines in a week, the government says.  

Here, mud landslides outside Dingalan town

Photo: AFP/PAF

Many hundreds, perhaps a thousand dead, many missing after two storms tore through the Philippines in a week, the government says.

Here, mud landslides outside Dingalan town
The Manila Times     Editorial
December 03, 2004

Jail illegal loggers

If only to appease the families who lost their loved ones to the massive landslides and flashfloods in Central and Southern Luzon, the government should hunt down all illegal loggers, prosecute and imprison them.

We know who these people are but the problem is many of them have “connections” and some are in the government.

The country should take a cue from Vietnam, which two days ago sentenced nineteen people, including 10 government officials, to prison terms ranging from four to 16 years, in Vietnam’s biggest deforestation case.

In the Philippines, forest rangers catch only the small-time tree cutters.

Meanwhile, the big bosses continue to decimate trees and count their illicit profit.





Filipino soldiers carry relief goods while trekking across a highway destroyed by landslides to reach thousands of typhoon
victims in flood-hit towns in Tanauan village, Quezon province, December 2, 2004. 

Residents of flood-hit Philippine towns scrambled to higher ground on Thursday as the most powerful typhoon this year
began to cause more destruction after floods and landslides have already killed hundreds of people.

Image: REUTERS/Erik de Castro
Filipino soldiers carry relief goods while trekking across a highway destroyed by landslides to reach thousands of typhoon victims in flood-hit towns in Tanauan village, Quezon province, December 2, 2004.

Residents of flood-hit Philippine towns scrambled to higher ground on Thursday as the most powerful typhoon this year began to cause more destruction after floods and landslides have already killed hundreds of people.





Price for ignoring people who vandalize trees and rape the environment

For the next few days, rescuers have to bear the stench of death as they retrieve the bodies of those who died in the typhoon.

Hundreds were killed, many are still missing and thousands have been left homeless.

This is the price we pay for ignoring people who vandalize trees and rape the environment.

Where did the Department of Environment and Natural Resources base its report that illegal logging had no part in the landslides and flashfloods that hit parts of Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon?

According to the report, the flash floods and landslides were caused by geological faults compounded by continuous heavy rains.

Absolves illegal loggers of their culpability

The report virtually absolves illegal loggers of their culpability.

Whoever wrote that report should be dismissed.

Apparently, the writer was unaware about the data collected by government agencies on illegal logging in Quezon and Nueva Ecija and the aerial photographs taken by the DENR of forests destroyed by illegal logging earlier in the year.

According to United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the Sierra Madre range straddling the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Quezon tops the list of 17 critical conservation priority areas in the country.






Logs and uprooted trees litter a swollen river in the town of Dingalan in Aurora province, about 70 km (40 miles) east of Manila, December 1, 2004. 

Rescuers dug with their bare hands on Wednesday to find survivors from landslides and floods.   

Photo: REUTERS/Aaron Favila/Pool
Logs and uprooted trees litter a swollen river in the town of Dingalan in Aurora province, about 70 km (40 miles) east of Manila, December 1, 2004.

Rescuers dug with their bare hands on Wednesday to find survivors from landslides and floods.






Critical and urgent

The Unesco report said that there are 206 threatened conservation priority areas in the country, but 17 are “critical and urgent—a matter of life and death.

54 years of decimating forests

It cited legal and illegal logging operations that have taken place since the 1950s, or about 54 years ago.

Although the government reduced the number of logging concessions since a few years ago, the legal and illegal loggers are still at it,” the report said.

The Sierra Madre range has been the site of massive timber poaching for decades.

Other extremely critical conservation areas in the country are Taal Lake in Batangas, and the nearby Pansipit River, Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur, the San Vicente-Taytay-Roxas forest in Palawan, the northwest peninsula of Panay, and the Madjaas-Baloi mountain complex in Panay.

Also on the list are northwestern Panay or Gigantes, the Olangui River in Lanao del Norte, Mount Apo in Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur, Mt. Busa in Kiamba, Sarangani and South Cotabato, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon.

The list also includes Mount Matutum in North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, Lake Duminagat in Misamis Occidental, Mount Malindang and Lake Duminagat in Misamis Occiental and Zamboanga del Norte and Basilan in Mindanao.






















Took hundreds of dead bodies

It took hundreds of dead bodies before the DENR made a decision to deploy additional forest rangers and arm them so they can check illegal logging operations more effectively.

It will take comprehensive coordinated efforts of the judiciary, the DENR, police, military and local governments to arrest, prosecute and jail illegal loggers.

An unwavering political will to get rid of corrupt people in government protecting illegal loggers is also needed.






 
 





















































































































































 
 





 
For archive purposes, this article is being stored on TheWE.cc website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.