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DENR targets expanding forest protection network

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will further mobilize the public in helping guard the country’s forests.

”We’ll do more of social fencing,” forester and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said at Saturday's Forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City.

Aside from individuals, he said DENR will tap communities so forests near these can be better guarded against illegal logging and other environmentally destructive activities.

Paje noted the DENR adapted the strategy to help augment the agency’s manpower for the task.

He said DENR is still unable to hire additional forest guards due to government’s prevailing freeze-hiring policy.

DENR has only about 3,000 forest guards nationwide at present and each of them must look after some 4,500 hectares of forest land.

Their average age is between 57 years and 58 years so they’re no longer as agile as before in climbing forests, Paje noted.

To help boost protection of forests, Paje said DENR earlier commenced deputizing individuals who volunteer to help guard such areas.

Over the years, however, more than 100 forest protectors have been killed in the line of duty.

Lat week, unidentified assailants gunned down Elpidio Malinao who was a DENR forest guard assigned at Laguna province’s Mt. Makiling.

Paje said Malinao was killed while on his way from court where he testified in an illegal logging case.

The DENR chief noted seven other forest protectors have been slain also since mid-2010, bringing the death toll to an average of one life lost per 34 days.

”It’s an alarming situation,” he said.

He said Malacanang already ordered law enforcement agencies, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and DENR to boost coordination with one another to help end the spate of killings victimizing forest protectors.

During the May 13, 2011 launching of the National Greening Program, the government honored Malinao and six other forest protectors killed in the line of duty.

Malinao’s fellow environmental heroes were DENR field personnel Kennedy Bayani, Rolando Sinday, Jacinto Dragas and Pierre Gillo as well as volunteer Nelson Luna and Lianga, Surigao del Sur province police chief Christopher Mazo.

Dragas’ daughter Raquel said her father received multiple death threats but continued undertaking his duty as a forest ranger manning a checkpoint in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

”He worried about his safety but still did his best at work,” she said.

DENR said Dragas apprehended a six-wheeler truck loaded with 305 pieces of suspected illegally cut timber of 'lauan' and 'toog' species.

Unidentified assailants shot him dead two days after such incident occurred. (PNA)




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