TACLOBAN CITY – Bishop Crispin Varquez of the diocese of Borongan has called the government to hire more forest guards to protect the forest covers of Samar Island from illegal poachers.

Varquez, who made the appeal during the recent meeting of the Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development (SIPPAD) in Borongan City on June 9, also said that these forest guards should be made permanent employees.

“I suggest to our government officials especially to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to hire more forest rangers and make them regular employees so that they will take the responsibility of their task as forest guards,” the prelate said.

He disclosed that with a vast forest to be guarded and protected from illegal loggers, there are only ‘few’ forest guards in Eastern Samar alone and most of them are contractual workers.

Samar Island is the third largest island in the Philippines next to Luzon and Mindanao with a total land area of 13, 438.8 kilometers.

Found on the island is the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), the largest contiguous tract of old-growth forest in the country and the largest protected area with a total of 333,300 hectares with its buffer spreading to a total of 458, 700 hectares of about a third of the entire island.

Inside the SINP are plants and animals many of which are considered to be threatened species and endemic to the region.

“To mitigate the effect of climate change and protect the balance of economy, this island should be protected and preserved from further destructions like mining, kaingin, and alike,” Varquez added.

Prior to this call from the Borongan bishop, the DENR and the Philippine National Police in the region had conducted a training involving 286 policemen for their deputation duties in protecting the region’s forest cover and in the enforcement of laws relative to the protection of the environment and natural resources.

Meanwhile, Northern Samar Governor Edwin Ongchuan said that the provincial government is planning to create a task force against illegal mining and logging.
The composite team will be composed of personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Army, and the PNP.

“Most of the illegal loggers in the province are protected by members of the communist group,” he said.

As part of the provincial government’s effort to go after illegal loggers, Ongchuan disclosed that they bought two high-speed bancas to go after illegal loggers who usually run towards the Bicol region.

“Some illegal loggers transport lumbers by hiding them under sacks of copra. So I instructed the Coast Guard to take a second look at trucks that are exiting our ports to make sure that they are not transporting illegally cut lumbers,” Ongchuan added.