Phillipines Environment Secretary Michael Defensor yesterday cancelled more than 8,000 forest management agreements covering 2.2 million hectares of the country's forest reserves as many of them had become effective covers for illegal logging operations.

Defensor issued the cancellation order as he announced that he would file an indefinite leave from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to handle President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s schedules and projects as her de facto chief of staff.

He said he decided to cancel the forest management agreements, or logging permits, because there were too many of them and monitoring each one was difficult if not impossible. Defensor said there would only be three integrated forest management agreements that will continue to cover legal logging operations and all of them were in Mindanao.