The death of Barangay Captain Ruben Arzaga ( a close relative ) of Villa Libertad has raised serious questions about the government’s capacity to run after illegal loggers who violate forestry laws with impunity right in the very heart of Palawan’s tourism jewel- El Nido.
Two days before he died, Ruben and his team of Barangay Tanods successfully confiscated thousands of board feet of illegally cut hardwood in a remote mountain of Villa Libertad. When he returned the following day to conduct an inventory of their haul, illegal loggers – now turned murderers- waylaid and shot him with an improvised gun. The lone policeman who escorted the team was of no help that day – and reportedly froze for a second before he could return fire.
The single bullet that fell Ruben reverberated and jolted DENR officials into realizing that someone died performing a task which should be theirs in the first place. Not even the presence of Sec. Roy Cimatu in El Nido, who gave Ruben the “Bayani ng Kalikasan Award “, could assuage the community of what is generally perceived as the department’s anemic support to the fight of local governments against illegal logging.
It’s about time DENR and the military, particularly the Western Command, get its act together in this fight for the future of our environment, And the local government unit of El Nido, aside from its own environmental protection program, could review its building policy and adopt more stringent measures in issuing construction permits. The illegal cutting of trees is demand-driven. And in El Nido, with all kinds buildings sprouting everywhere, one need not be a rocket scientist to know that the buyers of hot logs are right their in the neighborhood.
Sometimes, it takes more than courage and passion to implement our laws. A dose of good old common sense could have prevented a lamentable death.