By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has paid tribute to a slain village chief in El Nido, Palawan for his bravery in protecting the environment.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu visited last Friday visited the wake of slain barangay captain Ruben Arzaga in El Nido, honoring him as a “Bayani ng Kalikasan.”
Forty-nine-year-old Arzaga, an active member of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area Management Board, was shot dead by suspected illegal loggers whom he and a team of local environmental law enforcers were about to apprehend in Sitio Batbat, Villa Libertad last September 14.
Two of the suspects were later arrested and charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder.
Arzaga’s killing was the second attack on forest protection officers by illegal loggers and timber poachers in Palawan in three weeks’ time.
Last August 23, DENR forester Lito Eyala was shot by a suspected timber poacher while he and his team were patrolling in the mountains of Barangay Bacungan in Puerto Princesa City.
Eyala sustained two gunshot wounds in his back and nape. He underwent a surgery to remove the bullet lodged in his right jaw.
Cimatu denounced the two incidents of shooting of DENR’s forest protection officers by suspected illegal loggers, as he indicated his plan to strengthen the agency’s community environment and natural resources offices with the help of the military and the police forces.
He said he has ordered the DENR to provide a college scholarship to Arzaga’s daughter, Jesel Mae, 16, who is now in 10th grade.
DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino and provincial environment officials met with Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar of the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) and Palawan Police chief Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez to discuss cooperation in addressing the issue of illegal logging.
“WESCOM will help the DENR conduct regular aerial patrol and strengthen joint operations against timber poachers, illegal loggers and kaingeros,” Bernardino said.
“Apart from this, the WESCOM will train our forest rangers and foresters on basic security measures, including the use of firearms for self-defense,” she added.