The provincial government has condemned the murder of forest ranger Bienvinido “Toto” Veguilla Jr., calling it a brutal act that should not happen in any area of Palawan again.
Provincial information officer Winston Arzaga said this Tuesday as he confirmed that an agreement has already been drawn between the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the donation of 150 shotguns for the protection of forest rangers in Palawan.
He said the memorandum of agreement was signed in July this year to address the need to protect the caretakers of the forests following the slaying of Villa Libertad barangay captain Ruben Arzaga in September 2017.
“Noong nakaraan pa tayo may plano dyan mula ng may insidente kay Arzaga. Naisip nga ni Governor (Jose) Alvarez na dapat armasan ang mga rangers natin kasi sobrang delikado ng trabaho nila at kung patayin sila ay ganoon na lang. Hindi man lang nila mabigyan ng proteksyon ang sarili nila. Hindi man lang maipagtanggol,” Arzaga said.
He said the DENR is now facilitating the permits for the firearms.
Arzaga added it will be the DENR who will be in charge of their distribution.
“Kung sasabihin nila ngayon na okay na ay ibibigay na natin. Kaya lang may mga inaayos pa doon at kasama na dyan ‘yong permit ng mga baril. Kung ano ang magiging proseso sa paghawak noon ay depende na rin sa kanila. Ang sa provincial government lang naman ay mag-release ng mga unit, may allocation talaga tayo para d’yan. We are just waiting for the go signal of the DENR,” he explained.
Arzaga added they are also condemning communism, even terrorism in the province, following the encounter between the Marines and armed members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Bulho, Barangay Calasaguen, Brooke’s Point on Sunday morning, September 8.
He said they are now working closely with law enforcement authorities to speed up the investigation of Veguilla’s killing, as well as the encounter that took place in Brooke’s Point that wounded SSgt. Samuel Mofar of the 24th Marine Company (MC), Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT4).
Arzaga said Palaweños can trust the strong presence of the military in the province under the Western Command (WESCOM) for their protection.
“We are in close coordination with our law enforcers para ma-prevent ang mga ganitong incident. Nalalaman naman natin lahat ng mga nangyayari, kaya nga ang call natin ay talagang mabigyan ng armas ang mga ranger natin para maipagtanggol man lang nila ang kanilang sarili. Kawawa lang talaga kapag namatay na walang laban, samantalang ang gumawa ng krimen ay walang hirap,” Arzaga said.
Earlier, Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu also announced they are planning to arm their forest rangers and civilian enforcement officers after the killing of Arzaga, the near-fatal shooting of another forester in Puerto Princesa City, and Veguilla.
“One thing is for sure — we will be doing something also to protect themselves. We will give them some training, some equipment, like that. I will be taking action to improve the protection of our foresters. We will do this because we don’t like that thing [Arzaga’s killing] happen again,” Cimatu said.