Groups seek probe of Masungi forest rangers’ shooting
MANILA, Philippines — Environment groups have called for an independent investigation of the attack against two forest rangers in Masungi Georeserve in Rizal province, who were shot by still unidentified assailants on Saturday night.
The rangers, who were stationed in Masungi’s reforestation site in Sitio San Roque in Baras town, underwent an operation on Monday to remove the bullets lodged in their bodies. One of the men was shot in the neck; the other, in the head. At press time, both are recovering in the hospital.
In a letter to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, which manages the ecotourism site and leads reforestation projects in the area, appealed for heightened security for their park rangers.
“This flagrant crime was committed where a company of elite Special Action Force police and another company of Regional Mobile Force Battalion are stationed immediately next door,” said the letter signed by Ben Dumaliang, the foundation’s president.
“The assault occurred less than a week after we wrote to and pleaded for action with Secretary Cimatu, following two hostile incidents against Masungi park rangers,” it added.
Sought for comment, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said more security personnel would be deployed in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, where the georeserve is located.
“We are also coordinating with the AILTF (Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force), led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), on the filing of charges recommended by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government),” Malaya told the Inquirer on Monday.
The attack took place just over a week after the DILG recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against certain government officials and private entities for violation of environmental laws within the protected area.
Site inspection led by the DILG and DENR in June confirmed the illegal cutting of trees and slash-and-burn activities and illegal construction of a private resort in Sitio San Roque.
Billie Dumaliang, trustee and advocacy officer of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, said the rangers had just returned from patrolling their site when they were attacked.
The Masungi Georeserve is an ecotourism site within the Upper Marikina watershed, which was declared a protected area in 2011. But private settlements and establishments had already been set up in the area, leading to several conflicts within the watershed.
Prior to the assault, the younger Dumaliang said Masungi’s forest rangers had received threats for reporting illegal activities in the watershed.
In a statement on Monday, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police, said he had already ordered an investigation of the incident.
He said he also ordered the PNP Training Service to reach out to the DENR to train forest rangers in self-defense and threat detection.
“This is not the first incident of harassment, assault and killing of forest rangers in the country,” Eleazar said. “We will not allow these people taking care of our environment to be sitting targets.”
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