ENVIRONMENT Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat is seeking additional benefits for the forest rangers protecting the region's forests.

On the heels of the death of a forest ranger in Apayao, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) chief continued his call for justice and a speedy investigation of the case of the fallen Kennedy Eber Bayani, who was shot July 9 at San Isidro, Luna, Apayao while manning a forest in the highlands.

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Baguilat said financial support poured in for the family of the fallen eco warrior from employees and agency officials who pitched in to add to the meager benefits given to Bayani.

Baguilat said "we have to have more and better benefits for our employees, and if possible added police protection."

Police cooperation for forest rangers is needed especially in the manning of forest checkpoints of the region. Rangers have no means to protect themselves from illegal loggers as seen in the death of Bayani who was shot dead.

No firearms are given to forest rangers and the agency has continuously complained on lack of personnel to protect the forests of the Cordillera.

Bayani was part of the team which confiscated tanguile, red lauan, and mayapis lumber and flitches in Sitio Taballay, San Gregorio, Luna, Apayao in a bid to stop logging in the area.

Police suspect that Bayani's killing was linked to this confiscation.

Baguilat said the case has been turned over the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) by orders of DENR Secretary Ramon Paje.

Baguilat said "the body of Bayani has been exhumed to undergo further investigation" after the case was forwarded to the NBI.

The department is undermanned with forest rangers following the implementation of a moratorium in hiring new rangers. There are 100 positions that are yet to be filled.

Because of the freeze in hiring, forest rangers in the region are all over 45 years old and are assigned to man 2,500 to 3,000 hectares of forest land. (Ma. Elena Catajan)