Suspected illegal loggers shot dead a village captain Thursday morning in Barangay Villa Libertad, El Nido during an actual enforcement operation conducted by municipal officials of El Nido.
Initial reports gathered by Palawan News indicated the victim, Barangay Captain Ruben Arzaga was shot by still unidentified illegal loggers while he, along with personnel of the municipal environment and natural resources office (Menro) were conducting a surveillance operation in the mountainous area of Villa Libertad.
Raffy Bacate, MENRO of EL Nido, said Arzaga joined his enforcement team on Thursday night, surveying the mountains of Batbat in search for illegal loggers who were able to collect around 1,000 board feet of Amogis wood.
Bacate said the illegal loggers may have been alerted of their operation and and fled the area.
“Kahapon pa yan kaya lang hindi kami lumakad ng araw kasi maraming look-out. Ang ginawa nila kasama si Kap, lumakad sila kagabi mga alas-diyes. Nakauwi sila mga 5:30AM. Wala silang naabutan dun pero may mga nakita silang mga kalabaw na may mga karitela, baka dun ilalagay yung mga kahoy,” Cabate said.
He said that when their enforcement team together with Arzaga went back to confiscate the 1,000 board feet of Amogis wood, they were attacked by the suspected illegal loggers.
“Ang plano namin, i-confiscate at ibaba na ang mga kahoy at isakay sa truck. Nagdalawang grupo sila, ‘yung isa naiwan sa tumpok ng kahoy, ‘yung isa pumunta sa taas hinanap ‘yung source. Dun nagkaputokan. Hindi nila alam na may naka-abang na pala sa kanila sa itaas,”Cabate added.
Cabate said that Arzaga succumbed to a gunshot wound in the head. He said that a rescue operation was delayed for about two hours because the mobile signal in the area was limited and the enforcement team had difficulty establishing contact while they were trying to hide from the armed men.
Arzaga died while being rushed to Puerto Princesa City for treatment.
A military pursuit operation was launched Friday to go after the suspected illegal loggers.
“Nasa bundok na ‘yung mga marines natin. Naghahanap sila doon kasi may mga usap-usapan na baka hindi lang basta basta iligalista ang gumawa nito,” said Cabate.