NGO calls for enhanced effectivity of EO 23

February 10, 2011 11:52 am 

MANILA, Feb. 9 — Non-government environment watchdog Haribon Foundation is proposing two measures for enhancing effectivity of Executive Order 23 which President Benigno Aquino III issued last week to ban logging in natural and residual forests nationwide.

Haribon chief operating officer Blas Tabaranza said the foundation recommends tapping environment-related fees and other funds to augment the PhP10 million initial budget Mr. Aquino set for operations of the anti-illegal logging task force he ordered created through EO 23.

The foundation is also recommending that the government use, instead, for technology transfer activities conditional cash transfer (CCT) funds the State will provide to those affected by the logging ban, he continued.

Tabaranza noted Haribon believes both measures are needed particularly since the Philippines is striving to regain its forest cover.

"Generations of the 1950s to the present already took up what belongs to the future – if we continue to harvest our remaining natural forests, we essentially continue robbing our children of what ought to be theirs," he said Wednesday during a press conference at Miriam College in Quezon City.

Haribon noted additional funds for the task force can be sourced from environment-related taxes levied on emissions testing, road use and flood control.

Another funding source can be value-added tax on oil and natural gas, Haribon said.

EO 23 requires that the task force's initial budget be sourced from available government funds.

Release of additional funds for this group is subject to presidential approval, however, EO 23 clarified.

Haribon is batting for hiked funding as EO 23 requires the task force to spearhead government's anti-illegal campaign.

The task force is also duty-bound to help Department of Environment and Natural Resources implement Philippine environmental laws.

Last week, DENR Sec. Ramon Paje announced government will prioritize as CCT beneficiaries those affected by the logging ban President Aquino ordered.

Through its CCT program, government extends financial assistance to marginalized households nationwide provided children and pregnant women who are members of such groups avail of education and health services, respectively.

Haribon is requesting more information about the CCT assistance to logging ban-affected people, however, concerned such might do more harm than good to the poverty alleviation component of EO 23.

"We fear a dole-out system negates people empowerment," Tabaranza noted.

The foundation believes CCT funds are better invested in promoting technology transfer so people in affected communities can learn about farming systems that are effective, suited to their respective areas and income-generating.

Such systems can include rainforestation, which enables farmers to plant agricultural crops between indigenous trees, and environment-friendly bio-intensive farming.

Haribon lauded President Aquino for issuing EO 23, describing this as a "step towards the right track." (PNA) DCT/LOR/CJT

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