MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Massive Forest Conversion Seen; Calls Made to Revoke Midnight Gozun Orders

Published by MAC on 2004-11-10

Massive Forest Conversion Seen; Calls Made to Revoke Midnight Gozun Orders

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

November 10, 2004

The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) calls for the revocation of the midnight Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) administrative orders (DAO) signed by former environment DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun last August 31, 2004. A total of 28 DAOs were approved by Secretary Gozun, the highest number she approved in a day during her term.

"The former Secretary, in just a single day before bowing out of public office, practically declared 27,000 hectares of forest lands to be disposable and alienable. Not only will this lead to the denudation and destruction of our remaining forest ecosystem but also bring about the displacement of thousands of peasant and indigenous people residing in these areas," Clemente Bautista, KPNE national coordinator, said.

Bautista is referring to DAO Nos. 2004 37-50, all signed Aug. 31 by ex-DENR Sec. Gozun, which converts to agricultural (alienable and disposable) lands parts of forest lands in Cagayan, Benguet, Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Bataan, Bukidnon, Palawan, Surigao del Sur, Capiz, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

Aside from these, Gozun also signed DAO 2004-59 that reinforces the conversion of forest areas to agricultural and commercial uses. DAO 2004-59 allows the use and management of forest lands for "special uses" such as warehouse sites, shipbuilding, industrial processing, airports, log depot, lumberyard, mineral storage and/or quarrying, mine waste disposal area, motor pool, power station and other "lawful purposes.

"Converting these biodiversity-rich and environmentally critical areas to other uses facilitates the land grabbing and exploitation of big landlords, commercial loggers and transnational mining companies of the country's rich natural resources. Being a focal ecosystem, this shall lead to such environmental problems as frequent drought, massive soil erosion, depletion of our water resources and tragedies similar to the 1991 Ormoc and 2003 Southern Leyte flashfloods," Mr. Bautista added.

"We are certain that this form of environmental treason does not stop at former Sec. Gozun but can be traced all the way to President Arroyo. As part of her 10 point economic agenda, President Arroyo targets to develop two million hectares of new land for agribusiness and promised to further open up our mineral lands for foreign ownership and exploitation. These DAOs are necessary mechanisms for the administration to achieve its goal of commodifying and selling out our forest and natural resources to generate much needed dollar to address its fiscal deficit and cash strapped government," Mr. Bautista explained.

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