(UPDATED) DENR stops BFI’s extraction, transport of pine tree resin

Extraction of resin from Benguet pine trees in Can-ayan, Malaybalay City| Bukidnon News.Net photo by Walter Balane

Extraction of resin from Benguet pine trees in Can-ayan, Malaybalay City| Bukidnon News.Net photo by Walter Balane

CAN-AYAN, Malaybalay City  (Bukidnon News.Net/05 February) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has put on hold 500 sacks of Benguet pine tree resin estimated to be about 30,000 kilograms from the custody of a Chinese contractor of the government-owned Bukidnon Forest Inc.

Vergilino Alima, DENR-Malaybalay chief told Bukidnon News.Net the apprehension occurred on January 30, more than a week after he “requested” BFI general manager Reynaldo Abordo to stop the extraction of resin because they have no permit to do so.

He said BFI and its contractor Davao-based Chinese firm Luda Chemicals Inc. have no permit to show their “ordinary minor forest product origin.”

Residents have registered their opposition to the extraction in discussions on air and on the social networks. They feared that the extraction might slowly kill the pine trees, which help provide Malaybalay its cool weather.

Alima said they estimated the value of the resin to be around P600,000 at P20 per kilo. Workers in the village told this reporter they are paid P11 per kilo to harvest the resin, done in the tradition of the harvest of rubber sap.

He said they received reports that the extraction is done within and outside BFI’s 38,000 hectare Industrial Forest Management Agreement, which expires in 2016.

A Benguet pine tree resin harvester shows the strip they get everyday from the bark. A kilo of resin harvested is worth P11, a livelihood opposed by Malaybalay residents on air and in the social network in Malaybalay City, known as a "City of Pines"| Walter Balane/Bukidnon News.Net

A Benguet pine tree resin harvester shows the strip they get everyday from the bark. A kilo of resin harvested is worth P11, a livelihood opposed by residents on air and in the social network in Malaybalay, a city known as a “City of Pines,” “A city within a forest,” and “Cool place, warm people”|
Walter Balane/Bukidnon News.Net

Alima added that BFI had been warned as early as May 2012 that the extraction of resin, which was believed to be used to produce inks and paints, required a permit because it is considered an “ordinary minor forest product.”

“They told us they will process a permit. As of now, we were told they are still processing their integrated annual operation plan,” he added.

He said BFI and its contractor were invited to a DENR administrative deliberation on February 13 for them to “shed light” on the matter.

The resins in sacks were stocked in the side of a dirt road in this village covered with cogon grasses. A source said it was meant to protect its quality. Another source said the Chinese contractor employed watchmen to protect the stock from saboteurs.

Danny Lucine, a BFI officer, told radio station DXDB Tuesday Abordo is unavailable and was on his way to Manila. He admitted that BFI does not have a permit to extract pine tree resin. He said, however, that they have a memorandum of agreement with the Chinese firm.

Alima, who assumed his post recently, said DENR-Malaybalay did not get hold of a copy of the MOA so it has no idea about the scale and scope of the contract.

He also lamented the initial statements by BFI and the Chinese contractor that the extraction is only experimental.

“Unbelievable, this is a big stock we got here,” he added.

Huang Ming Xing, a resource person from LCI, said in a PowerPoint presentation during a hearing at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in May 2012 that extraction is not harmful to pine trees.

Last year’s hearing was meant to shed light on the supply contract between BFI and Chinese-owned Luda Chemicals, Inc. (LCI) to tap resin from Malaybalay pine tree plantations inside the 38,000-hectare plantation area.

This was also about the time then DENR Malaybalay chief Ferdinand Dagolo wrote BFI about the required permit to extract.

Bukidnon News reported earlier that Environment Secretary Ramon Paje directed BFI in May last year to stop its tree harvesting operations.

Paje, who also chairs the board of directors of BFI, ordered the stop “until further notice,” according to Abordo. The order was reportedly pursuant to the instruction of President Benigno Aquino III, who earlier ordered a total log ban in the country and launched a National Greening Program.

Abordo said, although he clarified that “it does not mean they have to stop cutting immediately as they are still allowed to cut 7,000 cubic meters worth of wood in the next three months to honor previous contractual obligations.

He said there is no sign DENR’s order to stop cutting is permanent but he said the experimental deal with Luda Chemicals is a transition to BFI’s alternative source of income.

Abordo said the order was a result of the May 17 meeting of the BFI board in Quezon City. The board also ordered BFI management to “establish around 8,000 hectares of forest plantation inside the BFI area of responsibility last year.

BFI, previously the Bukidnon Industrial Tree Plantation Project (BIPP), obtained a 25-year BFI Industrial Forest Management Agreement, due to expire in 2016. BFI is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) under the National Resources Development Corporation. As BIPP, it was funded by the national government of New Zealand until it was terminated as a foreign-assisted project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 1998.

Felix Mirasol, DENR-Bukidnon chief, told this reporter last year the remaining volume for cutting is still a huge volume, which translates to 389 truck loads worth of timber.

Abordo told the provincial board they already had customers who deposited payments for orders previously made.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. in a resolution has called for President Benigno Aquino III to cancel BFI’s IFMA ahead of its expiration in 2016 and its contract with the Chinese firm.

He cited that BFI and its contractor misled the provincial board during a hearing last year that their initial deal was only experimental and will not be pursued without the go-signal from provincial officials.

Beltran also questioned BFI reforestation efforts.

“BFI has dismally failed in its task to reforest even half of the 38,000 hectares, and BFI has even harvested more pine trees than it planted, no wonder the climate in Malaybalay is now getting warmer” Beltran lamented. BFI officials have denied the allegations. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)