23 October 2017
Miriam College hosts forum on environmental defenders
Environmental advocates gathered today in a forum hosted by the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute to discuss the worsening plight of environmental defenders in the country.
Organized by the Environmental Advocates against Repression and Tyranny in defense of Human Rights (EARTH), a newly formed alliance to protect the rights of environmental defenders, the forum highlighted the brewing human rights situation in the anti-mining communities of the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Batangas.
“The worsening attacks against environmental defenders in Nueva Vizcaya and Batangas combine for two extrajudicial killings, 10 illegal arrests and trumped-up charges, and over 500 families displaced by intense militarization. Under the impunity perpetuated by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, we are well on our way to once again being the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders,” said Anna Kapunan, spokesperson of EARTH.
In the latest report on the killings of land and environmental defenders by international NGO Global Witness, the Philippines was ranked the third deadliest country in the world for environmental advocates and the worst in Asia. Covering the entire year of 2016, which was shared by the previous administration of former president Noynoy Aquino and the current Duterte government, the report recorded at least 28 cases of environment-related killings.
According to the monitoring of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a convening organization of EARTH and one of the local partners of Global Witness, there are already at least 17 cases of environment-related killings under Duterte this 2017.
Indigenous communities in the municipality of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya are currently in a pitched battle against the commercial operations and attempted expansion by Australian-Canadian mining transnational corporation Oceanagold. Since Oceanagold’s acquisition of the Didipio mine in 2006, its host and adjacent communities have been afflicted with a string of human rights violations that include the violation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), violent dispersal of barricades and demolition of homes, extrajudicial killings, and militarization.
Meanwhile, mine exploration and development projects in Batangas long delayed by community opposition are now being subjected to increasing violence. Mining tenements owned by Asturias Chemical Industries and Bluebird Merchant Ventures have recently been saturated by troops and marred with killings, illegal arrests, and aerial bombings.
“Frontline communities opposing big mines and other destructive projects continue to be besieged with rights violations to dissuade them from protesting. There is a stark dissonance between Pres. Duterte’s fierce proclamations of holding environmentally destructive projects accountable, and the brutal repression environmental defenders are experiencing under his security and investment defense programs,” Kapunan noted.
The forum was concluded with a symbolic tree planting activity signifying the pledge of the participants to “continue the legacy” of all environmental defenders “martyred” for their advocacies. The organizers pledged to mount for activities and mobilize greater numbers of environmental defenders in the coming anti-tyranny protests.#