Press Release
September 7, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) today asked Secretary Angelo Reyes of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to review the lifting of the suspension of logging concessions in Mindanao approved by former DENR Secretary (now presidential chief-of-staff) Michael Defensor.

Pimentel said the logging concessions were granted to the following companies:

1. Matugina Timber in Davao del Norte which was acquired by Johnny and Belen Chua and Joaquin Ng from former owner Henry Wee, and

2. Ventura Timber in Surigao now operated by Bong Siquian and Ben Ching.

Pimentel said his request to Secretary Reyes for the review and eventual cancellation of the logging concessions to the companies was in response to appeal of his constituents in Mindanao who were concerned over the wanton destruction of the critical forest cover in the affected provinces.

The lifting of the suspension of logging concessions of these companies was apparently made in violation of forestry laws, especially on the grant of timber permits, he said.

As early as last year, Pimentel had protested the move of the DENR, under Secretary Defensor to lift the suspension of the logging concession of the Matugina Timber in Davao del Norte covering about 50,000 hectares the only remaining timber stand in the province.

However, Defensor ignored the objection and refused to overturn DENR Undersecretary Ramon Pajes approval of the resumption of logging operations by Matugina Timber.

Pimentel said he found it unusual that Defensor decided to have the suspension of the logging concession lifted when the same had been disallowed during the time of Antonio Cerilles and Heherson Alvarez as DENR secretary.

He said the government must impose a total ban on commercial logging in Davao del Norte and other provinces in Mindanao with dwindling forest cover to preserve ecological balance and to prevent catastrophic flashfloods and landslides caused by forest denudation.

The lone senator from Mindanao said the unwarranted lifting of suspension of the said logging concessions despite their potentially dangerous consequences merely lends credence to talks that the owners of these enterprises happened to have the right political connections.

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