Group says impunity prevails in Palawan vs environment defenders | Inquirer News
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Group says impunity prevails in Palawan vs environment defenders

/ 03:22 PM September 06, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – An environment advocate group condemned what it said was a culture of impunity that made the killing of a forest ranger in Palawan by illegal loggers possible.

In a statement on Friday (Sept. 6), Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalkasan PNE) said the killing of forest ranger Bienvenido ‘Toto’ Veguilla Jr. was proof that working to protect the environment has become hazardous.

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According to the group, Veguilla was the 18th environmental advocate killed in Palawan, considered as the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, since 2001 which made Palawan “the third deadliest hotspot for environmental defenders in the country.”

It said many of the environmental defenders were forest rangers like “brave para-enforcers” tapped by the Palawan NGO Network Inc., a member of Kalikasan PNE.

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“Their work to secure the protected areas of Palawan is becoming increasingly vulnerable to reprisals from poachers” who are believed to be supported by “powerful warlord interests,” the group said.

Veguilla, an employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was hacked to death on Thrusday (Sept. 5) at the resort town of El Nido. Three suspects had been identified—Cardo Fulgencio, Glen Fulgencio and Fernand Flores. Two other assailants were not known yet.

READ: DENR forest ranger hacked dead in Palawan 

The attack revived calls for the arming of forest rangers. Veguilla was carrying a .45 caliber pistol when he was attacked.

READ: Loggers kill ranger in Palawan forest 

Kalikasan PNE said the culture of impunity has sent its tentacles to the fight for the environment and even to workers in the government.

“The culture of impunity is clearly affecting environmental defenders even from the ranks of government itself,” said the group.

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“Illegal logging and other environmentally destructive operations are increasingly emboldened to attack defenders knowing full well the certainty of escaping the rule of law,” the group said.

It said environmental protection laws in Palawan “are no match to poaching sponsored by powerful political interests.”

Just as poachers get more aggressive, the government continues to neglect environmental defenders. “Police forces that should be augmenting and protecting our civilian forest rangers are clearly not doing their job,” said Kalikasan PNE.

The group also called on government agencies, including the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate.

“There should be greater state support for our forest rangers and voluntary para-enforcers,” said the group.

A bigger investigation should also be conducted on illegal logging and wildlife poaching in Palawan and other areas with rich biodiversity in the Philippines.

“We are not only losing P50 billion a year because of illegal wildlife trade, we are losing the lives of dedicated forest defenders who are the frontliners in the struggle to stem this plunder of our biodiversity and other natural resources,” the group said./tsb

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TAGS: Bienvenido ‘Toto’ Veguilla, DENR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Jr., Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, Kalikasan-PNE, Philippine news updates
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