Dr. Isidro Olan, executive director of Lovers of Nature Foundation, alighted from his vehicle because logs were blocking the road; when he did, the would-be-assassins fired at him hitting him on the right shoulder.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — An anti-illegal logging and illegal mining advocate in Surigao del Sur survived an ambush on October 29.
According to reports from MindaNews.com and Interaksyon.com, unidentified men shot at Dr. Isidro Olan and his wife Olive around 3:30 p.m., Monday, as the couple was returning home. The reports quoted Carmen police chief Senior Inspector Dominador Plaza. Plaza told the media that the two would-have-been victims were aboard their Toyota Fortuner when they were shot at some 75 meters away from their house in Brgy Puyat, Carmen, Surigao del Sur. The scene of the crime is part of an abandoned lumber scaling area owned by the Surigao Development Corporation, a logging company.
Olan is the executive director of Lovers of Nature Foundation, Inc.
The Social Action Center head of Secretariat for the Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza (CarCanMadCarLan) zone in Surigao del Sur, Chito Trillanes told MindanNews.com that the environmental activist exited his car when he saw that several logs were blocking the road. As Olan disembarked, the would-be assassins shot at him, hitting him on the right shoulder.
Olan was immediately taken by his wife to the Madrid Municipal Hospital. The police said shells from .45-caliber and .22-caliber handguns, as well as three empty shells from a shotgun, were found at the crime scene.
Surigao police authorities have already announced that the attempt at Olan’s life was connected to his anti-mining advocacy work.
Only last October 14, Olan joined leaders and members of various people’s organizations in Surigao del Sur in an activity calling on voters to exercise discernment in the May 2013 elections. Olan said voters should choose candidates with a defined agenda on the protection and preservation of the environment.
In a report on MindaNews by Erwin Mascarinas, Olan was quoted as saying that his group is planning to look into the platforms of candidates in the towns of CarCanMadCarLan to see if they have a concrete environmental agenda.
Olan said they will launch an educational campaign among schools to encourage students and young voters to vote wisely.
“It is essential that we have leaders that will put environmental concerns as its top priority,” said Olan in the report. He was also quoted as saying that if the Surigao del Sur people won’t be united, “the entire ecosystem of CarCanMadCarLan will be compromised.”
“We need to vote pro-environment candidates, we’ve seen the effects caused by illegal logging and large scale mining operations in our province yet our leaders try to look away or just watch as greed slowly eats away our future,” he said.
In a separate report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last September 17, Olan was quoted as saying that illegal logging activities prevail because illegal loggers are able to acquire falsified documents and table surveys facilitated by crooks within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Olan was quoted in a statement from the Surigao Social Action Center saying that illegal loggers are difficult to stop ” because of their “established connections with high ranking officials of enforcement agencies, politicians, and members of the anti-illegal logging task force.”
A history of opposing mining, illegal logging
In 2008, Olan spoke in a prayer rally in Tandag City, Cantilan about Ventura Timber Corporation’s (VTC) “corporate irresponsibility” while operating its Timber License Agreement. He alleged that VTC indiscriminately cut logs in and outside its TLA and tried to ask the local government unit of Cantilan to allow it to sell the cut logs even when its license to operate was not renewed.
Records show that on April 17, 2008 the DENR under Iñigo Collantes City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) confiscated 417 pieces or 1,544.77 cubic meters of VTC illegally cut logs at Lobo, Cantilan and Babuyan, Carrascal, Surigao del Sur. VTC was granted its mineral rights in 1994.
Also in 2008, Olan and other environmentalists went against former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, Jr. over the issue of unresolved declaration of protected watershed areas inside an approved mining area. The area is inside the 4,876 hectare-approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) which the then Ramos government awarded to mining firm Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MCDC), owned by businessman Mario Vijungco, the former owner of Ventura Timber Company.