Thursday, October 22, 2009

Captors of 7 Filipino forest rangers make demands

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 22, 2009) – The captors of seven forest rangers abducted in the southern Philippines have demanded the government their ancestral lands and to cancel all forest agreements with commercial loggers in areas where there are presence of indigenous tribes.

The hostages - Emiliano Gatillo Jr., Gabriel Arlan, Rito Espinido, Teofredo Pujadas, Efren Sabuero and two others identified only as Clar and Abogatal – were taken on Wednesday near a forest checkpoint in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province.

The hostages are all employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“A man claiming to be the captor of the seven foresters has made four demands for the release of the hostages. We are leaving the negotiations to the police and local government authorities for the safe release of the foresters,” Major Michelle Anayron, a spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Anayron said the captors demanded the cancellation of the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement in the town of Sibagat; the awarding of the Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title; government approval of customary farming and the cancellation of the Integrated Forest Management Agreement with commercial logging companies in their area.

He said the man who made the demands identified himself as Anoy Behing, a native of Sibagat town.

The province is a known lair of illegal loggers and a stronghold of communist New People’s Army insurgents. The illegal logging in Agusan del Norte continues unabated and is threatening water shed areas in the province.

Last year, some 500 leaders of indigenous tribes and representatives of nongovernmental organizations and the Catholic Church appealed to Manila to put an end to illegal logging and destructive mining in the province and other areas in the Caraga region considered as ancestral domain. (Mindanao Examiner)

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