20 forest workers killed in 2 years—DENR
The last two years have been deadly for government forestry workers and environmental advocates.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 20 of its employees, contractual workers and civil society partners have been killed since 2010. The latest figures added to the death toll were recorded on Friday in Surigao del Sur province, the ground zero for illegal logging in the Philippines.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje identified the latest casualties as Rolando Intas, 57, and Wilner Pelos Colorita, 52, who were both gunned down by an unknown assailant.
Paje said Intas and Colorita were forest protection officers who worked for a forest cooperative in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
DENR Director Nonito Tamayo of the Caraga region said the two men worked closely with his office.
A few days before the two were killed, they intercepted and confiscated 1,000 board feet of hardwood lumber that were illegally harvested from their forest land.
“They were killed in the market by a lone unknown assailant. One of them died on the spot, while the other died on arrival at the hospital,” Tamayo said.
Before 2010, there were instances of violence against DENR workers, but they were not as severe nor as brazen.
In 2009, one DENR employee was killed while at work, DENR records show. In 2008, six died while on official duty, including a forest ranger gunned down at a checkpoint.
Alyansa Tigil Mina and Kalikasan People’s Network said 17 environmental activists had been killed under the Aquino administration. Since 2001, there had been 58 killings, the groups added.
“If the figures from DENR Secretary Paje are accurate … that is extremely alarming,” Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“These killings are all the more alarming in the context of the Aquino (administration’s) determined push for more investments in mining. Without the necessary safeguards in place to protect DENR employees and environment advocates, we are afraid that the killings will continue,” he said.
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