Duterte blames ‘squatters’ for deforestation

MANILA, Nov 18 (Mabuhay) — Following the widespread flooding in several provinces due to Typhoon Ulysses, President Rodrigo Duterte blamed low-income families for deforestation.

In a briefing with Cabinet officials on Tuesday night, Duterte said poor communities in farms cut down trees and use the wood to build their houses and that this causes deforestation.

“‘Yong average Pilipino, they cannot afford a concrete house so halos lahat dyan, let us use the word being understood by all, ‘yang mga squatters, puro kahoy ‘yan. Bibili ‘yan including coconut wood,” he said.

“Ang problema niyan sa bukid talagang magpuputol ‘yan ng kahoy because ang mga Pilipino, ‘yan lang (ang kaya). Saan naman sila kukuha ng semento? Where do they cut the trees? In Canada? Or pupunta pa sila sa South America o Africa? So kung anong makita nilang nabibili sa small-scale… karamihan ‘yan ang ginagawang bahay ng mga tao,” he added.

Duterte said as the population increases annually, so is the need to cut trees.

“Magtatayo ng bahay and the temptation to cut the trees and bring it there to the lower land ay really to build houses kaya ‘di yan mawawala,” he said.

Moreover, Duterte said he is in a quandary on how to solve the problem of illegal logging.

Earlier, Duterte ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate illegal mining and logging activities in Cagayan Valley after various parts of the region were submerged in flood due to the heavy rains brought by Ulysses.

Duterte said mining could have loosened the soil, increasing the chances of landslides, especially during heavy rainfall.

Duterte also earlier said he would call for an investigation into the alleged quarrying operations that residents of Guinobatan, Albay complained of after the province was hit by Super Typhoon Rolly.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had suspended quarrying operations in Guinobatan following the damage brought by Super Typhoon Rolly. He added that floodwaters traveled down the slope of Mayon Volcano and reached three rivers where 11 quarrying operations were ongoing.

Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, however, appealed against the suspension of quarrying operations in the province, adding that they would run out of aggregates for reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.

He urged the national government to first investigate the matter before the implementation of suspension orders in the province. (MNS)

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