Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called for the swift passage of a measure that would establish an Enforcement Bureau within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as another Forest Ranger from Nueva Ecija died two days after he was shot several times by an unknown assailant.

Cimatu condemned in the strongest terms the killing of Forest Ranger Ronaldo Corpuz, who was assigned at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in the municipality of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

Reports reaching the DENR central office in Quezon City showed that Corpuz was shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant while he was closing the gate of their house at around 7:35 pm on October 25.

Corpuz was then brought to the Premier Hospital in Cabanatuan City, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullets from his body. He, however, was declared dead on October 27.

“This senseless attacks against forest defenders must come to an end,” Cimatu said, as he called on the police to go after Corpuz’s killer.

Corpuz was the third environmental worker killed this year.

Gaudencio Arana, a long-time DENR informant also assigned at CENRO Muñoz, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants on September 11.

On September 4, suspected illegal loggers stabbed DENR Forest Ranger Bienvenido Veguilla Jr. to death using a jungle bolo in El Nido, Palawan. Five of the six suspects have already been arrested and charged for murder and violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

Cimatu said the death of these forest defenders call for the immediate passage of a measure creating the DENR Enforcement Bureau.

“The proposed bureau will primarily benefit our foresters who are exposed to various risks and dangers when they perform their tasks on the field,” Cimatu pointed out.

Last October 24, Cimatu designated Undersecretary Jim O. Sampulna to head the newly-created Office of the Undersecretary for Enforcement and Special Project.

Prior to his death, Corpuz—together with members of Bantay Gubat—conducted a surveillance operation against timber poaching and illegal transport of forest products in Barangay Portal in Rizal town on October 22.

The team had seized 26 pieces of Yemane lumber, locally known as Gmelina, with a volume of 742 board feet from three individuals, who were charged with violation of Section 77 of PD 705.

Cimatu had earlier vowed to do everything in his power to protect DENR workers from “fearless, cunning and greedy” individuals who destroy the environment for their own selfish interests.

Appearing at a budget hearing in the House of Representatives, Cimatu asked lawmakers to pass a law that would create an Enforcement Bureau in order for the agency to effectively stop environmental crimes, such as illegal logging and smuggling of wildlife species.

The DENR chief also asked Congress to come up with a legislation authorizing forest rangers to carry firearms to protect themselves against illegal logging syndicates and other environmental criminals. #