DENR-11 to check forests with drones

Posted on July 17, 2013

DAVAO CITY -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in this region (DENR-11) will tap a Quezon City-based startup for the agency’s plan to use drones to assess damage by typhoon Pablo and to determine the remaining forest cover in the Davao Region.

Joselin Marcus E. Fragada, DENR-11 executive director, said in a statement that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Skyeye, Inc. would be rented as he cited the potential of the drones to bolster the government’s campaign against illegal logging. Mr. Fragada did not yet reveal cost figures for the UAVs’ hourly rental since the agency has yet to get an approved budget for the project from the central office, which has acceded to the region’s request to pilot-test the UAVs here.

However, the DENR-11 official did estimate that the agency might spend P10,000/hour for the drones.

Based on the results of aerial reconnaissance by the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force on July 9, 2013, typhoon Pablo last December damaged a total 119,309 hectares, mostly of coconut trees that were felled.

Mr. Fragada said the use of the drones against illegal logging is significant, especially since the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force has already reduced the number of “hotspots” -- areas with rampant illegal logging activity -- from 66 areas last year to just 16 villages this year.

DENR-11 showed showed that six villages in Davao Oriental, seven in Compostela Valley and three in Davao del Norte are considered illegal logging havens.

The task force is spearheaded by the DENR but counts the Army and the police as enforcing members.

Mr. Fragada said the government recorded P3.232 million in total value of the 849 cubic meters of logs apprehended from January to June this year.

“The operations in these areas need careful planning together with the military because of the risk involved,” Mr. Fragada said.

“We cannot afford to lose any men up in the mountains during operations, but we cannot also allow illegal loggers to continue raping the forests.” -- Joel B. Escovilla