MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday revealed that the Communist Party of the Philippines's (CPP) armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), is protecting illegal loggers in exchange for money.
In his pre-recorded Talk to the People, Duterte said illegal loggers are not afraid of forest rangers because they are guarded by NPA terrorists.
“‘Yung mga tawag nilang forest guards, hindi natatakot iyan (They are not afraid of forest guards),” Duterte said. “Protektado sila sa itaas ng mga NPA. Ang NPA, meron diyan eh. Ang illegal logging operations, meron diyan sila sa itaas (The NPA rebels are protecting them. The NPA is there. They are looking after those involved in illegal logging operations).”
This, after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told Duterte that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Forest Management Bureau is looking to increase the country’s forest cover by fighting illegal logging in protected areas.
Duterte, however, said NPA guerillas would do everything to help illegal loggers for them to collect money.
“Akala mo (Do you think) the NPA, they are doing something for the country? My God, wala (they have done nothing). They are killing people and extorting money from everybody from all sources. Kaya nga hindi natatakot, iyan ‘yan (That’s why they are not afraid, because of it),” he said.
Duterte ordered Cimatu to make sure that the forests are “really guarded and the trees are allowed to bloom.”
He also gave a warning to those who will go against the government by continuing their illegal logging operations.
“Alam ko ang negosyo ninyo. Pero huwag niyong isali ‘to kasi protected area nga. Nauubos na nga, may nagtatanim na nga eh, papakialam pa ninyo (I know your business. Do not target the protected areas. They are planting trees and yet, you will try to conduct operations there),” Duterte said. “Huwag ninyong gawin iyan kasi tayo ang magkaka-deperensiya. Eh ‘pag nagka-deperensiya tayo, eh alang-alang naman magpatalo ang gobyerno, talagang kayo ang maupakan ko (Do not do that because we will have a problem). The government will not allow itself to be defeated. I will really punch you).”
The DENR has signed an administrative order (AO) creating the Environment Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS) that will intensify the environmental laws.
ELEPS was formed, as the DENR awaits Congress’ action on the proposed bill seeking the creation of an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau.
Under the AO, ELEPS will cover the enforcement of environmental laws as enumerated in the Supreme Court rules of procedure for environmental cases like terrestrial laws, coastal, marine and aquatic resources, and aerial law.
ELEPS will also encompass the DENR’s existing enforcement units such as the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force, Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife, and other enforcement task forces.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)