MANILA // The Philippine government has voiced outrage at "ruthless" illegal loggers intent on defying a nationwide ban on destroying forests, following the New Year's Day murder of an environment officer.
Two men with M-16 rifles shot the environment department officer Alfredo Almueda in the head as he waited at a forest checkpoint to intercept a lorry carrying logs on Tuesday, the government said.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of yet another environment officer. We are angered and outraged by the attack," Ramon Paje, the environment secretary, said on Wednesday.
Mr Paje said Almueda, 59, was the victim of persistent efforts by illegal loggers to silence "environmental defenders".
Almueda's killing brings to 21 the number of environment department personnel, deputised workers and volunteers who have been killed since a nationwide logging ban was imposed two years ago, according to government data.
The Philippines has lost more than half its forest cover over the past century with only about 7.6 million hectares left.
These forests are guarded by underfunded, outnumbered and poorly armed government personnel who often face resistance from illegal loggers often linked to powerful businessmen and corrupt officials.