Local governments in the Mindanao eastern seaboard step up forest protection in hotspot region

          The municipal government of Carmen in Surigao del Sur signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Cantilan of DENR in Region 13 for the protection of 13,000 hectares of natural forests. More than 80% of Carmen is covered in natural forests. These forests overlap with the 100,000 hectare forest conservation area of CENRO Cantilan, the biggest block of natural forest in the province. The MOA signed by Mayor Jane Plaza for LGU Cantilan and Zaldy Perater, the head of CENRO Cantilan commits the Carmen Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office to assist DENR in implementing the USAID/B+WISER-developed Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System (Lawin) in the forests within the jurisdiction of the LGU. It also enjoins the LGU to conduct regular forest patrols jointly with DENR based on an agreed patrol plan and to respond to observed threats through environmental law enforcement, awareness-raising or appropriate development projects that would prevent local people from extracting forest products for their livelihood. The Mindanao eastern seaboard where the forest conservation area of CENRO Cantilan is located has been identified by DENR as an illegal logging hotspot based on Lawin patrol data and reports of apprehensions in DENR checkpoints. DENR Secretary Cimatu has ordered DENR field offices to intensify forest protection efforts nationwide. Currently, there are two LGUs in the province of Surigao del Sur - LGU Carmen and LGU San Agustin - that have entered into partnerships with DENR in forest protection.