Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to identify and arrest those behind the killing of an informant of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Rizal town in Nueva Ecija province recently.
“I hope the PNP will look deeply into this case and bring those perpetrators to justice, so that we can say that the death of yet another environmental defender has not been in vain,” Cimatu said, as he strongly condemned the killing of Gaudencio Arana, a long-time DENR informant currently assigned at the office of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Muñoz town.
Arana, 56, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants on the night of Sept. 11.
According to CENRO Florencio Lalu, Arana was one of those “responsible in giving accurate information regarding the illegal activities within Pantabangan and Rizal, Nueva Ecija areas leading to the apprehension of several illegally sourced wood products, conveyances and chainsaws.”
This, Lalu said, “could have earned the ire of unscrupulous individuals conducting illegal activities within these municipalities.”
Arana was the second environmental worker killed in just one week this month.
On Sept. 4, suspected illegal loggers stabbed DENR forest ranger Bienvenido Veguilla Jr. to death using a jungle bolo in El Nido, Palawan. Five suspects—Dexter Sumalague, Welmer Juancho, Felman Flores, Ricardo Fulgencio, and Ruel Fulgencio— have already been arrested and charged accordingly for murder and violation of Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
Cimatu had earlier vowed to do everything in his power to protect DENR workers from “fearless, cunning and greedy” individuals who destroy the environment for their own selfish interests.
Appearing at a budget hearing in the House of Representatives, Cimatu asked lawmakers to pass a law that would create an Enforcement Bureau in the DENR in order for the agency to effectively stop environmental crimes, such as illegal logging and smuggling of wildlife species.
The former Armed Forces chief also asked Congress to come up with a legislation authorizing forest rangers to carry firearms to protect themselves against illegal logging syndicates and other environmental criminals.
With the proposed creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau, forest rangers shall be authorized to carry firearms in the conduct of their daily patrol.
In the meantime, Cimatu said forest rangers should be provided police security whenever they conduct patrol. (DENR)