Monday, November 21, 2005

The height of obfuscation

When government people here in the Philippines utter a word or two, the important thing to remember is that they don't actually mean what they say. Well, at least for many powerful people in government, most of the time. As Arundhati Roy cleverly puts it, they use words to mask intent. At the height of this craft of obfuscation, their words could even take on exactly the opposite meaning. For instance, "logging moratorium" or "total log ban" from the mouth of entertainer extraordinaire DENR Secretary Mike Defensor could really mean allowing the cutting of trees only by a select few. Usually, only by those from whom some economic or political favors can be gained. This appears to be the case with the recent lifting of the logging ban imposed on Senator Juan Ponce Enrile's firm in Samar. And I wouldn't be surprised if this is also true with the other six (or was it eight?) logging permits approved by the DENR in August 2005 alone, in direct contravention of government's supposed total log ban policy. This policy of a nationwide logging moratorium was said to have been reached by our conscientious public servants in view of the numerous killer landslides and floodings in recent years.

An observation by Haribon Foundation, a conservationist organization in the country, summarizes it well: recent actions by the DENR appear to have negated whatever benefits gained from the declared total log ban. In the first place, I really doubt if the department was able to implement such policy on the ground. I've heard of logging operations continuing even in so-called "protected areas", right under their noses so to speak (DENR is supposed to be represented in the Protected Area Management Board). I can sympathize with committed Protected Area Superintendents (PASUs) who complain of lack of resources to protect the forests. But what really amazes me are these DENR provincial or municipal environment and natural resources officers (PENROs or MENROs) who love to boast about their recent catch of illegally cut logs. I think that's something to be concerned about guys, not something to be proud of. It only means your "work" of sitting all day long in your comfortable airconditioned offices or attending all those multisectoral meetings is not getting your main job done which is to protect those trees. (And in case you still don't get it, protecting those trees means preventing them from being cut.)

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