The management of Lionheart, an agribusiness company based in Rizal, Palawan, has accused several indigenous leaders in the municipality of “illegal tree cutting” within its coconut farm in Barangay Ransang.

In a statement furnished to Palawan News, the firm accused Ransang IPMR Sarilan Puntas, Dina Pascual, Candawaga IPMR Delos Santos and Ransang Kgd. Cudog of having “falsely accused Lionheart of illegal debarking of trees.”

The statement was in apparent response to the allegation made by the group against the company in a press conference held in Puerto Princesa City last week.

“The discovery of 19 cut trees on land rented by Lionheart and surrounding areas is yet another deliberate attempt by this group led by Miss Dina Pascual to pin such violations on Lionheart in an attempt to destroy the reputation of Lionheart,” it said.

Lionheart also accused Pascual of “coercing IP leaders to join her in her endless attempts to destroy Lionheart’s presence in Rizal.”

“Earlier this year, Kagawad Cudog’s son was arrested for illegal tree cutting and now, a son of IPMR Sarilan is one of the persons responsible for this week’s illegal tree cutting incident. In line with our obligation, then, we have reported this incident to the authorities, including the filing of a police blotter,” the statement added.

Lionheart cited a round table discussion recently hosted by Rizal Mayor Otul Odi to resolve issues in the community.

“Despite their commitment to resolve issues through dialogue and respect the overwhelming majority vote of the IP community in favor of the partnership with Lionheart, these persons still continue their campaign of disrespect and manipulations solely designed to undermine the partnership between the IP community and Lionheart,” the statement said.

“Lionheart has always been committed to dialogue and a policy of resolving issues directly with the involved parties within the community. We are expecting the Mayor of Rizal and authorities to act on this most irresponsible and criminal behavior. The public must open their eyes and finally come to terms with the reality of how “opposition” groups like this work to destroy livelihood and long term sustainable development efforts,” it added.

Sought for their reply, Pascual claimed in a text message to Palawan News they have a DENR report to back up their allegations against the company.

“Ngayon hawak ko ang report ng DENR na nagpapatunay na mayroong destruction sa forest ang Lionheart. May mga nag-testify na mga katutubo kung sino ang may utos. Bagama’t hindi ko pa ito nare-review, pero nakuha ito sa Punong Barangay [ng Ransang]. Ang ibig sabihin nito, hindi paninira ang aming sinasabi, hindi namin sinisiraan [ang Lionhear] kundi ito ang katotohanan, dahil nga may report,” Pascual said.

“Hindi kami desperado, kundi ilalaban naming ang katwiran dahil ang kanilang implementation ay labag sa batas. Ang kanilang ginagamit na lupa ay pag-aari ng mga tribong Palaw’an. Dahil nga pag-aari naming ito, po-proteksyunan namin ito,” she added.