DESPITE the recent abduction by communist rebels of four employees of an aerial survey company for allegedly conducting espionage operations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Davao said there has been no order yet to suspend the use of aerial drones.

Victor Billones, DENR-Davao officer-in-charge of the forest resources and conservation division, told Sun.Star Davao in a phone interview that they have yet to receive orders from DENR-Davao director Joselin Fragada who told them that Skyeye UAV is still assessing the risks involved in conducting aerial survey, especially after four of its staff were abducted on May 30 and later released on Monday.

"Wala pa kaming natatanggap na order from RD (Fragada) kung ipapatuloy pa ang aerial survey. Sa pagkakaalam naming nakakontrata pa kasi sila dun sa UAV company pero as to the continuation ng aerial survey, wala pang order if the activity will be continued," Billones said.

He also clarified that contrary to the claims of the NPA that the drones were used to conduct survey on guerilla bases, it was used as part of the National Green Program (NGP) of DENR wherein the drones were utilized to survey areas where they could implement the NGP and monitor ongoing projects.

"Ginagamit lang namin yan sa mga areas na hindi madaling pasukin. Ginagamit din ang mga ito para ma-monitor ang mga illegal loggers sa area. Nagamit namin to in monitoring the project of our contractors in Kapalong. Nakita din naming yung mga priority areas for NGP expansion doon," Billones said.

Fragada, on the other hand, earlier lambasted the actions of the DENR contractors saying that the four Skyeye UAV employees identified as Ken Wong, Chrisandro Favila, Tim Sabino and Nico Lasaca did not coordinate with neither the DENR nor the LGU of Maco.

The four could have been given a police or military escort if the DENR or LGU of Maco knew that they were to conduct the validation for the NGP. (RSA)