Death of eco warrior Milet Panaligan mourned
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna – Officials and employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here are mourning the passing of environmental heroine, Miliarete “Milet” Buisan-Panaligan, the lone lady Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) of Real, Quezon, due to health complication on “National Heroes’ Day”.
Melinda Gapas-Gordo, officer-in-charge of the DENR Calabarzon Regional Strategic Communication and Initiatives Section, said the regional workforce here described their late colleague as “strong-willed and fearless” in her fight against illegal loggers.
Gordo said the sole woman CENRO in their ranks had been described as “small but terrible” in running after illegal loggers lurking in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range bordering the eastern Quezon towns of Real-Infanta-General Nakar, now known by the acronym REINA and the Polillo Group of Islands or POGI, that are known to be illegal logging ‘hotspots’.
A brave and tireless yet passionate Batangueña, “Milet has undeniably left a significant mark not only on her co-employees, but also on the communities and institutions she had closely worked with in her 32 years of service at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” Gordo said.
Her colleagues remember her as a fierce environment law enforcer preferring to be called as a CENRA rather than a CENRO, proving the lone woman field officer could do with environmental crimes than her male counterparts.
Panaligan started her career as a casual Forester at the DENR Region 4 in 1986 and in 2010 held the post as CENRO officer-in-charge in Real, Quezon where she led several operation plans in Sierra Madre, MAREINAUA (Mauban, Real, Infanta, General Nakar, Umiray, Aurora) and POGI from 2011-2014.
In 2015, Milet assumed as the full-fledged head of the DENR field office and continued with her environmental mission by initiating the “Brigada Sierra” from 2015-2016 with the tagline “Mamamayan, Kasama Ka” which encouraged ordinary people to report perceived illegal forest activities through text message.
Unfazed by the number of death threats in her fight against environmental crimes, Milet just left her fate to God and devoted her work and expertise in community organizing in pursuit of the DENR’s mandate to protect and conserve the natural resources within her jurisdiction.
“She had a pure heart for public service, committed to building rapport with the locals especially the Indigenous Peoples, and making genuine forest protection partners out of them,” Milet’s co-workers said.
Her dedicated services were recognized in 2012 through a “Gawad Muyong Award” presented by then Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje and by then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Glorioso V. Miranda, describing her the “champion in anti-illegal logging operation in REINA-POGI.”
A recipient of several awards and recognitions for service excellence and dedication, Panaligan was also conferred the Outstanding Public Service Award by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) – College of Forestry and Natural Resources Alumni Association in 2014.
“Siya ay huwarang empleyado at sana marami pang katulad niya’ng DENR ang humalili sa kanya, hangga’t maaari, lalo na sa pagmamahal niya sa Sierra Madre. Talagang halos ibinuwis niya ang kaniyang buhay dahil lang sa pagmamahal sa kalikasan. Para sa akin, ang katumbas niya ay bayaning tunay na naglilingkod nang may katapatan(She is a model employee and I hope the DENR has more of her kind and those who would succeed her especially in her passion for work at the Sierra Madre. For me, she is an epitome of a real hero who served with honesty and dedication),” said Thelma Aumentado, the Indigenous People (IP) Governor of Quezon. (PNA)