Some P2.4 million worth of hardwood lauan logs and minor wood products were seized recently from a sawmill earlier closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the Royal Wood Enterprises was found operating by local officials of the DENR and Monkayo local executives led by Mayor Manuel Brillantes, Jr. despite knowledge that its wood processing permit has already expired last July.

“This once again reaffirms the strength that can be harnessed to fight illegal logging when local government units complement the efforts of our field officers,” Paje said, noting that the success of implementing Executive Order (EO) 23 rests largely on the partnership between local government units and national agencies.

Under EO 23, which President Aquino issued in February, sawmills and other wood processing plants (WPPs) have to prove that they have a sustainable source of legally-cut wood for a period of at least five years to continue operation. The requirement was to support the EO’s ban on logging inside natural and residual forests, thereby requiring all WPPs to process only planted trees grown in private and public tree plantations.

In support of the presidential order pertaining to WPPs, Paje through DENR Undersecretary for Field operation Ernesto Adobo, transferred from the DENR regional office to the DENR central office the evaluation and approval of applications for WPP renewal.

Subsequently in July, Paje ordered all the 16 regional executive directors of the department to suspend the processing of all new applications for WPP permit, including proposed expansion of existing WPPs.

Paje said reports reaching his office indicate that the lauan logs, found inside RWE’s compound, with a volume of 332.71 cubic meters, were newly harvested from natural forest contrary to the papers it has presented indicating that it was cut in 2009.

He said the logs, along with 7,998 board feet of flitches and lumber and 20 crates of veneer sheets, were placed under the administrative custody of the DENR office in Monkayo.

DENR records indicate that RWE filed last March its application for the renewal of its permit, which expired last July 31, 2011. However, DENR-Monkayo Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Victor Billones said that it has yet to submit wood supply contract in compliance with the requirement of EO 23.

Billones also noted the absence of a business permit from the local government office in its application for renewal of its processing permit.