DAVAO CITY – An environmentalist group said President Benigno Aquino III gave a wrong answer to a question of an elementary pupil on why illegal logging has not stopped in the country.

During his visit Wednesday here, Aquino went to Teodoro Palma Gil Elementary School where he answered five pre-set questions from the pupils.

Jirojunn Juri Lopoz, the student council president, asked the President “why is there illegal logging even if this is prohibited?”

Aquino answered with a Bible story on brothers Cain and Abel.

“There will always be a pasaway,” said Aquino.

Aquino said the logs confiscated by the government are used to build school chairs.

“The recent statement of Pres. BS Aquino which implies that we cannot do anything about the pasaway (devious) only shows why those on the ground are not doing something to halt illegal logging activities, especially corporate ones,” said Professor Chiara Respecia, spokesperson of environmental group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao.

Respecia said that the President’s answer “only shows that even the President himself, who is supposed to be the most powerful official of the land, does not have the political will to do so. He should resign immediately!”

“While we want to point fingers to local government officials for being inutile, if not implicated in these activities, the President can direct agencies involved to do their jobs,” said Respecia.

Respecia said big logging concessionaries are “legal.”

Respecia said “massive timber extraction is happening in Mindanao despite the so-called logging ban imposed by the Aquino government,” citing rampant logging in Davao Oriental.

“Reports from the communities show various ways of how illegal logging is happening. One of them: burying logs on the ground and moving them at night,” she said.

Earlier, Aquino was joined by Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and Department of Public Works and Highway chief Secretary  Rogelio Singson in  Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal for the DOT-DPWH convergence program on the circumferential road project in Igacos which is set to be completed in January 2016.

Before they met with Aquino, hundreds of students from Davao Central District participated in the Treevolution of the Young, a tree-planting activity conducted by the Supreme Pupil Government of the school and the SPG Federation of the Davao Central District.

Meanwhile, Respecia took a jab at the President’s “inaction towards Lumad issues, especially the recent killings.”

“One of the reasons why Lumad communities are being displaced is because of the entry of logging firms, plantations and mining interests,” she said.

Respecia said that while laging-laging (carabao logging) has been a source of livelihood for lumads in the past, “they stopped when they learned about the destructive effects of these activities to the environment and to their ancestral land.”

Respecia said Alcadev, the school which Executive Director Emerito Samarca was killed by paramilitary groups early September, “is one of those schools who teach Lumads to shift to sustainable agriculture instead.”

She said agriculture for Lumads are the main advocacies of STTILC (Salugpungan Ta Ta’Nu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorported) and the Misfi Academy.

“The classic example of this is when the Salugpungan community resisted the advance of logging company Alcantara and Sons in the 1990s and the present mining and plantation interests in their communities,” she said.

Respecia said forests are shed for the use of cacao and oil palm plantations which the government targets to be at hundreds of thousands of hectares in Mindanao.

“These interests even create their own private armies, paramilitary groups to fund military operations against Lumads,” she said.

Respecia said “the lumads taught by these schools became protectors of these resources, defending their lands, but are now being attacked all-over Mindanao and the other parts of the country.”

“If there are pasaways it is the government agencies who are tasked to protect our forests, our mountains, our environment. The pasaway is (President Aquino) himself,” said Respecia.

Later in the day, President Aquino’s attended a gathering of friends and supporters of the Liberal Party held at the SMX in Lanang. (davatoday.com)

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