By Lilian C. Mellejor
DAVAO CITY, 2June2014 — The five independent survey inspectors and vehicle driver abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last Friday (May 30) in Barangay New Leyte, Maco, Compostela Valley were finally released to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at an undisclosed place in Compostela Vallley province around 2:00 p.m. Monday.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional (DENR) Regional Director Joselin Marcus Fragada has sought the help of Duterte in facilitating the safe release of the five survey inspectors and the driver of the vehicle rented by the group.
Those released were Kendrick Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Tim Sabino and driver Jonas Loredo, who were turned-over by Duterte to Fragada at Holcim Cement Plant where the mayor was scheduled for a separate event.
Fragada earlier apologized to the local authorities of Maco, Compostela Valley for non-coordination with the local government unit prior to the conduct of the aerial survey in Barangay New Leyte.
Fragada said the activity of the survey inspectors from Manila-based Sky Eye UAV, which was commissioned by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO), was not also coordinated with the DENR XI, thus he only get to know the surveyors were in the area when he was informed of the abduction last Friday (May 30).
Fragada also clarified the surveyors are independent contractors and not part of the DENR. These are young graduates from the Ateneo de Manila who ventured into such business.
He said the group was commissioned mainly for aerial survey to validate the National Greening Program (NGP) tree plantation implemented by the government three years ago. Fragada said NGP is one of the flagship programs of the national government to have 1.5 million hectares planted with trees. In the region, a total of 33,000 hectares were already planted with different tree species, including cacao, coffee and Falcata.
According to Fragada, under the NGP program the DENR is required to produce geo-tag photos from the ground. And they also need to match these photos with an aerial/satellite surveillance to make sure that tree plantations really exist and to check survival rates of the tree seedlings.
He said the use of drones is one way to get an aerial surveillance.
Fragada pointed out there was no malicious intent in the use of drones. He however admitted there were lapses in the area of coordination that even DENR XI has no knowledge of the group’s presence in the area.
Duterte, who is the elected chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council, has been helping facilitate release of people held captive by the rebels. (PNA)