Saturday, January 15, 2011

Worker guarding seized logs killed in Surigao Sur

Unidentified armed men shot dead a member of the government's anti-illegal logging task force while he was guarding confiscated timber in Surigao del Sur province in southern Philippines.

In an interview with GMANews.TV on Friday, Maj. Gen. Renator Miranda, commander of Task Force (TF) Pagbabago, identified the victim as Jacinto Branas, a 56-year-old forester from Bislig City.

An initial investigation showed that the victim was guarding seized logs in a village in Bislig City when the armed assailants launched the attack.

Miranda suspected the armed men were the owners of the confiscated logs and were trying to get back at authorities. 

In an apparent attempt to intimidate government forces, unidentified snipers, in an earlier incident, fired warning shots against TF Pagbabago members.

“They wanted to scare us but my men are not scared of them. For my part it is already a passion, an advocacy to protect the environment," said Miranda.

"I am not afraid to die. What we only wanted is to stop the cutting trees in the forests of Caraga that are now getting denuded so fast," he added.

Apparently, it was not the first time that armed men had launched assaults during anti-illegal operations. 

In another incident, men operating a tugboat that was ferrying confiscated logs were also fired at by armed men, but no one was hurt.

In 2008, forester Audie Lachingco was shot dead in front of his home in ParaƱaque City in Manila, but it was not immediately clear if the attack was work-related.

Lachingco was a member of TF Pagbabago which was then headed by Army General Roy Kiamko, who was responsible for confiscating P20 million worth of illegally cut logs along the Agusan River.

Since its creation, the government task force has already seized P60 million worth of illegally cut logs in the Caraga Region, Mrianda said.

Meanwhile, several environmental groups in the region urged TF Pagbabago not to be "selective" in their anti-logging operations.

The groups warned that the task force's "informants" who give tips on where illegal logs are being kept might just belong to rival illegal logging firms. — Ben Serrano/LBG/MDM, GMANews.TV

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