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Philippines worsens as 2nd deadliest country for environmental defenders in 2017


03 February 2018

Philippines worsens as 2nd deadliest country for environmental defenders in 2017

With 41 land and environment-related killings recorded in 2017, the Philippines was declared the second deadliest country for land and environmental defenders in the world and deadliest in Asia in the recent exclusive released by international advocacy group Global Witness together with the British daily The Guardian.

In the special release, it was highlighted that “a broader crackdown by the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, was a key factor” in the sharp spike in murders of defenders opposing mainly big mining and plantation interests.

“The Philippines went from third to second deadliest country for environmental defenders in 2017 as we faced the bloodiest year ever for environmental defenders. Duterte’s crackdown against dissenters and critics clearly aimed to systematically uproot communities standing in the way of coal blocks, metal explorations, and agribusiness ventures,” said Leon Dulce, deputy national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), which served as one of the local partner organizations of Global Witness.

The feature cited the case of indigenous Lumad chieftain Datu Victor Danyan and seven other tribe members who were massacred by a composite of the 27th and 33rd Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army back in December 3, 2017.

The eight T’boli-Dulangan Lumad, which also included Danyan’s sons Victor Jr. and Artemio, were tending to the agricultural lands they had occupied in defiance to the land grabs of the DMCI company’s large-scale coffee plantation and the proposed 2,000-hectare coal mine, both located within their ancestral lands.

The military had claimed Danyan and his fellow Lumad were members of the New People’s Army, but a fact-finding mission held last December 16-17, 2017 by Kalikasan PNE’s regional network Alliance for Genuine Development (AGD) and human rights group Karapatan confirmed the incident to be a massacre of civilians.

The Commission on Human Rights in Region 12 (CHR-12) subsequently affirmed the mission findings in docketing the massacre as a Martial Law-related case.

“All regions of Mindanao are suffering from the yoke of military rule, with 63 percent of our monitored environment-related killings under Duterte occurring in the besieged island. It is also no surprise that 59 percent of all cases under Duterte involved suspected or confirmed state armed forces,” said Dulce.

Kalikasan PNE said the Duterte administration has done little to recompense indigenous people and other environmental defenders who have experienced violence and human rights violations for opposing extractives and other destructive projects.

“At least 20 of the 28 big mines that were up for closure or suspension during Duterte’s first year had a history of extrajudicial killings, militarization, or other atrocities within their areas. The Office of the President itself prevented the closure or suspension of all these big mines. Our forests, watersheds, and agricultural lands continue to be plundered and the rights of our fellow environmental defenders continue to be trampled,” Dulce pointed out.

Global Witness senior campaigner Ben Leather said in the Guardian exclusive that “until communities are genuinely included in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, those who speak out will continue to face harassment, imprisonment and the threat of murder.”

Kalikasan PNE said that while it has supported the legal defense of a number of environmental defender cases in 2017, the attacks were too widespread and systematic and necessitated equally thoroughgoing measures for accountability and justice.

“The Duterte government must be held accountable for its wanton militarism against environmental defenders and other civilians. Its military investment defense forces and paramilitary mercenaries for corporations must be dismantled. The big mines and other ecologically destructive companies that have benefited from this violence must be immediately stopped and investigated,” ended Dulce.#