DENR exec clears Dacon Group of  Vinta deaths in Zamboanga del Norte

THE Dacon Group of Cos. and its subsidiaries, which operate tree-plantations in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, are not liable for the flooding at the height of Typhoon Vinta that resulted in deaths of more than two dozen people in the area in December last year, the country’s top forestry official said.

Director Nonito M. Tamayo, chief of the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the investigation conducted by a DENR review team ruled out that the flooding was caused by the operation of the Dacon Group’s South Davao Development Co. Inc. (Sodaco) and the Sirawai Plywood and Lumber Corp. (SPLC).

The operations of Sodaco and SPLC were ordered stopped by the DENR in January.

The deaths caused by the flooding in the area eventually triggered a nationwide review of 89 Industrial Forest Management Agreements (Ifma) by the DENR.

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Tamayo, in a telephone interview, said that based on the assessment of the review team, the flooding that killed more than two dozen people was caused by the degradation of the forests in the surrounding areas that are far from the Ifma areas of the Dacon Group.

“Based on our assessment, the flood that caused the deaths in the area came from another watershed and river system, and not from the area covered by the Ifmas,” he said.

“It is impossible for floodwater from the Ifma areas to cross ridges and cause the flooding in the area,” he explained.

“Definitely, the flooding came from another watershed and other river systems,” he stressed.

Tamayo said, if ever, the Sodaco and SPLC can be held liable, technically, for clearing the vast area for the establishment, not of tree plantation but for the establishment of palm-oil plantation. He said around 10 percent of Sodaco and SPLC are planted to oil palm, which is a violation of the Ifma terms and conditions of the agreement.

“Technically, it’s conversion because, under the Ifma, they are allowed to do clearing for tree plantation.  Palm oil is not a tree,” he said.

However, he noted that, upon inspection, they also confirmed that the Ifma holders are also planting rubber trees and other industrial tree-species.

He said its manner of preparing sites for planting tree seedlings should be improved.

A stop order was issued by DENR Regional Director Felix S. Mirasol Jr. against the Dacon Group upon the instruction of President Duterte during a Cabinet meeting on January 5.

This came after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol showed Duterte a video footage of the deforested portion of the Zamboanga mountain range to the President.

The massive deforestation in the area is being blamed for the flash floods and mudslides that killed more than two dozen people last December.

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