Authorities have arrested one of the suspects who assaulted a police team that was conducting operations against illegal logging activities in Cagayan province that is still rebuilding from the aftermath of massive flooding two weeks ago.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas ordered pursuit operations against the suspects who fired at the police team, wounding Lt. Randy Baccay, deputy chief of police of the Peñablanca Police Station.
“More aggressive police operations will continue against illegal logging activities on orders of President Rodrigo R. Duterte despite this temporary setback,” Sinas said on Saturday.
According to Brig. Gen. Crizaldo Nieves, director of Police Regional Office 2 in Cagayan Valley, suspect Ernest Sibbaluca, 45, of Barangay Minanga, Peñablanca, Cagayan was identified as among the attackers.
Nieves said Baccay and his team were responding to reports on the presence of illegally-cut timber stockpiled in Sitio Dalayat of the same village in Lagum, Peñablanca on Thursday evening.
While the team was inspecting and documenting the logs, armed suspects opened fire, hitting Baccay, while the rest of the team launched counter action.
Baccay was brought to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Sinas instructed Nieves to extend the wounded police official a PHP50,000 financial assistance for his medical expenses.
Capt. Rohaina Asalan, Peñablanca chief of police, said Sibbaluca has an arrest record in September 2019 for violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
Sibbaluca is facing criminal charges for direct assault upon an agent of authority and frustrated murder and was taken to the Peñablanca Police Station for investigation, Asalan said.
Follow-up operations are underway to recover the firearms used in the attack, she added.
In a related development, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are joining forces to implement the crackdown on illegal logging and illegal quarrying earlier ordered by the President in the wake of massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said the National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force created under Executive Order 23 will be called to a meeting by the DENR to implement new strategies to protect the remaining forest cover and protect threatened habitats across the country.
The Task Force counts the DILG, PNP, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as members.
Malaya said both DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu have agreed to mobilize all resources to stop the further destruction of the country’s remaining forest resources.
Malaya said the DILG also committed to support the National Greening Program (NGP) of the DENR which aims to rehabilitate some 1.2 million hectares of denuded forest lands by 2022.
“The DILG commits to mobilize the LGUs, the PNP, BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection) and BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) to meet the goal of the NGP to rehabilitate the unproductive, denuded, and degraded forest lands of the country by engaging local communities in the DENR’s reforestation program. We will also work with Civil Society Organizations to plant more seedlings for our forests to grow again,” he said in a statement.
He said that there is no better time than now to protect the remaining forest cover and do serious reforestation. “I know we are still in a pandemic but this program cannot wait otherwise we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction as a planet. Climate change is here and we have to face it,” he said.
The DILG spokesperson said that from January to October 2020, the PNP has conducted 6,710 anti-illegal logging operations and arrested some 3,336 illegal loggers across the country.
“The 6,710 PNP operations have led to the recovery of 3,663,173 board feet of lumber illegally cut from our remaining forest cover. We have filed 1,145 cases in court against the suspects. There are still many violators of our environmental laws,” he said.
Malaya said the PNP may effect an arrest even without warrant of any person who has committed or is committing the offense of illegal logging under PD 705.
SOURCE: PHILIPPINES NEWS AGENCY