Friday, October 23, 2009

Negotiations begin for safe release of 5 kidnapped forest rangers in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 23, 2009) – Government negotiations began Friday for the safe release of five kidnapped forest rangers in Mindanao.

Police said kidnappers have earlier freed two hostages - Emeliano Gatillo Jr. and Efren Sabuero in Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur province, but the gang held on to the other captives - Gabriel Arlan, Rito Espinido, Teofredo Pujadas and two others identified only as Clar and Abogatal.

The kidnappers were demanding the government to cancel all forest agreements with commercial loggers in areas where there are presence of indigenous tribes.

“There is an ongoing negotiation spearheaded by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for the safe release of the remaining five hostages,” said Chief Inspector Martin Gamba, a spokesman for the police task force handling the case.

But Gamba said the progress of the talks is still unknown. “We still don’t know what transpired, but we are hoping this crisis would end soon through peaceful negotiations,” he told regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

The NCIP is the primary government agency that formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples with due regard to their ancestral domains and lands, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, and cultural integrity.

Gamba said the kidnappers are believed members of a local indigenous tribe, adding the negotiations were held in the hinterland village pf Padiay in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province.

The seven men rangers, who are all employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were kidnapped on Wednesday near a forest checkpoint in Butuan City.

The military said the kidnappers have made four demands in exchange for the freedom of the hostages after a man who claimed to be the leader of the gang holding the foresters contacted the DENR.

Major Michelle Anayron, a spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao, said the kidnappers 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. (Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: