Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Daraitan and How Illegal logging is done

Barangay Daraitan is a small community composed of more than 500 families. It is surrounded by the mountains of Quezon Province namely Nilindigan, Atburan, and Nilubugan (this is according to the residents but the official names of these mountains may vary) and other unidentified mountains of Quezon and Rizal Province. Geographically, Daraitan is part of the Municipality of Gen. Nakar, Quezon Province but politically, since the people have to circumnavigate the mountains in order to avail of services from the local government of Nakar, the people of Daraitan chose to be part of the Municipality of Tanay, Rizal. Daraitan has its own elementary school and high school. The literacy is around 95 percent. Although the community is small, yet it has many denomitional missions and chapels and cults active in the area. There are two Baptist chapels, a Seventh Day Adventist chapel, a Mormon chapel, Back to Christ (a mystic cult) chapel, a Rizalista conclave, and a Dating Daan Coordinating Center.
According to the local people, Daraitan was purchased by the early settlers from the Dumagats, the indigenous people, for cans of sardines and trinkets.

The people are mostly Tagalogs, Bicolanos, Ilocanos, Pangasinenses but there also Ilonggos and other Visayans. One of the theories on the diversity of the people here is treasures. According to local stories, the mountains surrounding Daraitan contains Japanese treasures. This attracted prospectors and treasure hunters from all over the country. There were also stories that the legendary Yamashita treasure was hidden in these mountains. A resident told us that an army general and his entourage carrying laptops and other hi-tech equipments once went to Daraitan; the residents theorized that they were treasure hunting.

Due to the exploitation they experienced, the Dumagats, the original residents of the area, are now weary of the lowlanders and are continually being driven into the interior of the mountains. Our guide Pastor Nito told us that the Dumagats won’t accept candies even from missionaries.
The communist insurgent the New People’s Army is also active in the area. They are the protectors of the illegal loggers; they are also feared and respected by the people of the community. “A misbehaving member of the community is first given a warning, if he/she didn’t pay attention; he/she simply disappears,” Narrated Mang Mulong. This a typical story, not only here in Daraitan but anywhere where the NPA exerts influence.

With the enforcement of the total log ban, logging ceased to be Daraitan’s’s main source of income. Technically, Daraitan is an agricultural community. In reality, however, what the log ban did was to force the people of Daraitan to engage in clandestine logging. Carabao logging (although they use horses) is the term used to describe this activity. According to the residents 80 percent of the people here depend on Carabao logging for survival; the rest survives on kaingin and river delta agriculture and on private employment. The whole economy of the barangay is based on the movement of the raw lumber from the mountains to the hardware stores in the neighboring town of Rizal especially in Taytay where the demand for lumber is highest.

The movement of illegal lumber in Daraitan follows two systems: one is over water which the local calls “Bulaog” and the other is over land. The transportation of raw lumber over land is what will be discussed here since this is the system used at Daraitan.

The land transportation of raw lumber follows a five step process. The first is the felling of trees by the “operators” i.e. chainsaw operators. These operators, if they own the chainsaws, get 3 PHP (.06 USD)* per board foot; but if the operators do not own their chainsaw, they get 2 PHP (.04 USD) per board foot; the 1 peso is for the rental of the chainsaw. Since the trees are fast disappearing, the operators have to go deeper into the interior of the mountains to look for trees. They usually spent from two weeks to a month there.
The operators have helpers that are paid .75 PHP (.015 USD) per board feet. The operators cut the felled trees into 2” thick raw lumber slabs called dos por lapad on site for easier transportation.

The next process is called “borlet”. Borlet is the transportation of the dsos por lapads from the felling area into the into the horse loading site. Borleeters slide the cut raw lumber down the mountain slopes down into the loading area. It is a dangerous job; residents said that the most common accident that can happen to a borleeter is a crushed leg or legs that usually end up to amputation. This happens when the dos por lapads, in its downward travel, got snagged by a rock or any other obstruction catapulting it back to the borleeters. A borleeter receives 1.50 PHP (.03 USD) per board foot for short distances they slide the dos pro lapads and double that amount if it is far.

After borleting, it is now the turn of the”mangngabayos”. The mangangabayos transport the dos por lapads by horse back. They are tied to the horses through specially designed saddle called the “sangkarol and the siyete”. Sangkarol is a handmade local saddle while siyete is a wooden frame used to fasten the raw lumbers on the horse’s sides.

The mangangabayos receive from 6.50 PHP (0.13 USD) to 8 PHP (0.16 USD) per board foot. They usually travel from six to eight hours through the mountain. They earn an average 500 PHP (10 USD) per trip.

Awis is another method of carrying raw lumber. This is done by manually carrying the dos por lapads using a headsling called awis. Seeing people carrying raw lumber this way is heartbreaking. (See post below for picture of how awis is done.)

It was already dark when our guide Pastor Nito Barlaan hurriedly called us to look at a man coming down the dirt road. We saw a man manually carrying 2’x 12”x 10’ dos por lapad on his back. The man was half-lumbering, half-running because he had to maintain his balance and with the distance he traveled carrying that load through the mountains and jungle, we can only imagine his tiredness. Pastor Nito told us that it’s about four to six hours travel one way. The awis carriers are paid the same rate as the mangangabayos but without the horses.
Old time awis carriers develop tumor like growths on their napes because of the load they carry.

The mangangabayos and the awis carriers then drop the dos por lapads to their financiers’ warehouses where the lumbers are stockpiled for transporting to the hardware and lumber store and furniture makers in the neighboring towns of Rizal.

The transportation of the dos por lapads from the financiers’ warehouse to market is done covertly. There are two ways this is done: one is through direct bribing of the military and police checkpoints and the other is through clandestine operation using especially designed jeepneys called tambors. These tambor jeepneys have especially designed compartments under the seats; the seats are higher than ordinary jeepneys in order to have more storage space for the dos por lapads under it. They also have especially designed chassis that allows dos por lapads to be stowed under them; some even have removable hollow roofs.
There are also Elf trucks that transport calamansi from the plantation to the market; but according to some residents, underneath those sacks of calamansi are raw lumbers.

*The exchange rate used through out the paper is 50 PHP to 1 USD.

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