Davao City — The New People’s Army claimed they captured last week an army corporal involved in protecting a logging syndicate headed by local and police officials in Southern Mindanao and Caraga Regions.

In a statement, the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan sub-regional command spokesperson Ka Aris Francisco said they captured on May 3 Corporal Rogelio Rosales of the 60th Infantry Battalion Bravo Company.

According to the NPA, they caught Rosales in the act of arranging transportation for illegal logs in Barangay Florida, Kapalong town.

This was the same NPA unit that recently captured Army Sergeant Jeric Curay of the 72nd Infantry Battalion last April 4 and released April 23, whom they said took part in protecting a logging syndicate.

Francisco said Rosales and Curay are part of a gang of “60th IB-72nd IB-Big 4 troika” operating in Trento, Agusan del Sur; Laak, Compostela Valley and Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

He identified the Big 4 including a mayor from one of the towns in Compostela Valley, two police officers and a retired police officer.

The Big 4 has since changed their name to TANGGO after the NPA exposé, Francisco claimed.

Kapalong Mayor Edgar Timbol confirmed the existence of the Big 4 and said the group has been “his enemy” in his anti-illegal logging campaign.

He said he was surprised of the NPA’s claim that a Comval mayor was involved in the illegal logging.

“Actually I am clueless that he is involved in illegal logging here. I will ask and verify this with the military,” Timbol said.

NPA’s Francisco further detailed the group’s alleged modus in transmitting logs.

“They secretly ferret out the logs along the highway at night and bring it to the TPPMC Cuambugan plywood plant; Ret. Police officer (name withheld) is in charge of the illegal logs transaction at the plant,” the NPA said.

One of the Big 4 partners allegedly buys the logs in Trento town and whose name they use in their transaction.

“Prices of the logs are controlled, manipulated and dictated by the Big 4, oftentimes cheating small-scale and petty loggers and small owners,” he said.

He added that the NPA is carrying a “total log ban policy” in their subregion due to massive logging activities. They had allegedly seized illegal logs in sitio Patel, Brgy. Gupitan in Kapalong, and  in Brgy. Datu Davao and Brgy. Balwarte, Laak.

The Kapalong LGU issued an order declaring Barangay Gupitan as a critical watershed  jointly supervised by the environment department.

Kapalong Mayor Timbol told Davao Today “(M)y marching orders to the PNP is to arrest all illegal loggers regardless of whom they serve and protect.”

Timbol said that his staunch stance against illegal logging earned him death threats.

Timbol said they had made arrests of people engaged in illegal logging.

“So far, we are successful in apprehending illegal loggers and put a halt in their operations here. By hook or by crook, they will be put behind bars,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III signed on 2011 Executive Order 23, which declared a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber. He also created an anti-illegal logging task force to monitor and go against illegal cutting of trees.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 11 identified 16 “illegal logging hotspots” in the region last 2013, which was down from its figure of 66 a year earlier.  The agency attributed this achievement through its joint efforts with the military and police to implement the presidential order.

Only seven of 44 towns in Davao Region had drew up a Forest Land Use Plan designed to manage and protect forested areas, this according to the Philippine Information Agency.  DENR 11 said they targetted 15 towns to draw up their plan this year. None of these included Laak and Kapalong. (davaotoday.com)

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