Over 100 NGOs raise concern over plight of environmental defenders in PH
5 December 2017
Declaring “it is not a crime to defend the environment,” a total of 109 non-government organizations, social movements, and other environmental groups came out with a unified statement raising concern over the worsening human rights situation faced by environmental defenders in the Philippines, rated as the third deadliest country in the world and deadliest in Asia in the 2017 Global Witness Report on Killings of Environmental and Land Defenders.
Hailing from 22 different countries, the groups noted that “in just more than a year under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, at least 42 environmental defenders have been killed, 240 have been slapped with harassment lawsuits, and at least 18,263 have been forcibly displaced because of their resistance to destructive projects.”
“President Duterte is by far the worst human rights violator to Filipino environmental defenders. Duterte is well on his way to making the Philippines the most dangerous country for environmental defenders by 2018,” said Mr. Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the main initiators of the statement.
The statement came out amid increasingly atrocious human rights violations perpetrated against Filipino environmental defenders and other activists over the past two weeks.
On November 26, an exodus was begun by 1,688 indigenous Lumad people opposing coal mining development in their ancestral lands in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. This was spurred by intensified military operations of the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Later, the evacuation camp was food blockaded by the 75th IBPA to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid.
Last December 3, elements of the 27th and 33rd IBPAs massacred 8 indigenous T’boli and Dulangan Manobo tribe members opposing attempts by the DMCI corporation to establish a 3,000-hectare coal mine within their ancestral lands in South Cotabato province.
Various other incidents of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, and forced evacuations occurred in just over the past week in the provinces of Mindoro Oriental, Batangas, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Surigao del Sur. Affected communities mainly confronted mining, plantation, and coal issues.
The groups observed that “civilians are systematically targeted by bloody military operations under an increasingly aggressive ‘Oplan Kapayapaan’ counter insurgency program and the dark shadow of Martial Law,” noting the recent systematic efforts of justifying killings and militarization by accusing environmental defenders as armed communist rebels or sympathizers.
The groups furthered in the statement that “Big Mining has much to do with the mayhem” with 55% of the monitored killings and 100% of the monitored harassment lawsuits involving anti-mining activists and community members.
“The Duterte administration must immediately free all remaining 16 illegally detained environmental defenders from prison, and drop all 225 trumped-up charges still lodged against environmental defenders. Urgent and concrete actions must also be taken to stop the killings of environmental defenders and bring to justice its perpetrators,” the groups said.
The unified statement was initiated by Kalikasan PNE together with the Environmental Advocates against Repression and Tyranny in defense of Human Rights (EARTH), a recently established environment and human rights coalition united to oppose human rights violations perpetrated against environmental defenders.
Kalikasan PNE and EARTH announced their intention to mobilize their ranks in time for the December 10 Human Rights Day mobilizations planned by various movements opposing the worsening climate of impunity in the country.
Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0905 432 5211
–Unified Statement Follows–
Defend Environmental Defenders!
Environmental defenders are under attack in Asia’s deadliest country for environmentalists. In just more than a year under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, at least 42 environmental defenders have been killed, 240 have been slapped with harassment lawsuits, and at least 17,748 have been forcibly displaced because of their resistance to destructive projects.
It is no wonder that the natural resource-rich country was declared the deadliest in Asia and third deadliest in the world in the Global Witness 2017 report on killings of environment and land defenders.
Women who found their voice in the defense of the environment like indigenous Ifugao and village official Marilyn Lango, one of the leaders of the community organizations opposing Australian-Canadian mining firm Oceanagold in Nueva Vizcaya province, are being imprisoned by police and military forces on non-bailable charges. Six women human rights defenders working on mining and other environmental issues in the region of the Cordilleras have also been similarly lodged with harassment suits.
Big mining has much to do with the mayhem. Anti-mining activists such as Lito Casalla, a leader of agrarian reform beneficiaries from Batangas province defending their lands against the San Miguel Corporation subsidiary limestone mine project, constitute 55% of the monitored killings. Big mines such as Filminera and their figureheads in government are in fact responsible for 100% of all trumped-up charges we monitored.
Civilians are systematically targeted by bloody military operations under an increasingly aggressive ‘Oplan Kapayapaan’ counter insurgency program and the dark shadow of Martial Law. Communities opposing big mines, plantations, and other destructive projects, repeatedly accused as supporters of communist rebels, are being attacked by military and paramilitary troops with combat operations and bomb runs.
It is not a crime to defend the environment. It is our conviction that safeguarding the rights of environmental defenders and their communities is imperative to the protection of our environment and conservation of our natural resources.
We urge the Duterte administration to immediately free all remaining 16 illegally detained environmental defenders from prison, and drop all 225 trumped-up charges still lodged against environmental defenders. Urgent and concrete actions must also be taken to stop the killings of environmental defenders and bring to justice its perpetrators.
Let our fellow environmental defenders continue to freely speak out and take action.
1. Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE)
2. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC-Phils)
3. Ministry on Ecology – Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila
4. Miriam Public Education and Awareness Campaign for the Environment (Miriam PEACE)
5. Nilad – Metro Manila
6. 350.org East Asia
7. 350.org Pilipinas
8. AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People
9. AGHAM Youth
10. Agra Indonesia
11. ALGA Association of Rural Women Kyrgyzstan
12. Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Central Luzon
13. Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) – Central Luzon
15. Anakbayan UP Los Banos
16. Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links (APWSL) – Korea
17. Asociación ambiental y cultural Petón do Lobo, Galicia (España)
18. Asociación Amigos y Amigas de los Bosques “O Ouriol do Anllóns” Galicia (España)
19. Asociación gallega Cova Crea, Galicia (España)
20. Association for the Promotion of Sustainable Development Hisar (APSDHISAR)
22. Bai Indigenous Women’s Network
23. Bayan GL
24. Bayan USA
25. BIEN (BPO Industry Employees’ Network) Philippines
26. Bukluran para sa Inang Kalikasan Batangas (BUKAL Batangas)
27. Cambodia IP Alliance
28. Cambodian Youth Network
29. Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines – UK (CHRP UK)
30. Campaign for Peace and Democracy – Manipur
31. Caraga Watch
32. Center for Environment – Bosnia and Herzegovina
33. Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur
34. Center for Sustainable Community Development (SCODE) Vietnam
35. Center for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas / AIPP – Vietnam
36. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR)
37. Coalition for Climate Justice Nepal (CCJN)
38. College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – Southern Tagalog
39. Community Initiatives for Development in Pakistan (CIDP)
40. Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA)
41. Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU)
42. COURAGE – LEAGUE
43. DECOIN Ecuador
44. Earthworks USA
45. Empower India
46. European Environmental Bureau
47. Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN)
48. Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights (FEEDAR & HR)
49. Global Witness – UK
50. Go Wild Films
51. Greenwatch Dhaka
52. Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS)
53. Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
54. Ibon International
55. International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)
56. ILPS Indonesia
57. ILPS Netherlands
58. Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
59. Institute for National and Democracy Studies (INDIES) Indonesia
60. IP – Central Luzon
61. JAGO NARI
62. Kadamay – Central Luzon
63. Kalikasan Southern Tagalog
64. KARAPATAN – Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
65. KARAPATAN – CL, Philippines
66. Katribu – Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas
67. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
68. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Philippines
69. Kohtuusliike (Movement for Moderate Lifestyle) – Finland
70. Lao Hamutuk – Timor Leste
71. Loas – Malaysia
72. Mangrove Action Project
73. Metal Worker’s Alliance Philippines
74. MHEP – Thailand
75. Mines, Minerals & People
76. National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) – USA
77. Nature, the Earth is entrusted to us! – Netherlands
78. Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN)
79. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Association (NPSA)
80. Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand
81. NGO Federation of Nepal
83. One Nature / Sisters of Wilderness
84. Panalipdan Mindanao
85. Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN) Bangladesh
86. Paryavaran Mitra
87. Philippine Network of Food Security Programs (PNFSP)
88. Pinay sa Holland – Gabriela
89. Rainforest Rescue Germany
90. Rede contra a Minaría Destructiva na Galiza (ContraMINAccion)
91. River Coalition in Cambodia / NGOF
92. Roots for Equity
93. Rotary Club of Uptown Manila
94. Salva la Selva
95. SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination
96. Santi Sena
97. Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, Philippines Region
98. Smallholder Farmers Association of Kenya
99. Sustainable AgroFood Platform
100. Sustainable Development Foundation
101. Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines
102. The Gaia Foundation UK
103. Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)
105. UP Saribuhay
106. War on Want
107. Workers Alliance in Region III (WAR – III)
108. Working group Mission, Development & Peace of the Diaconie of the St. Joseph Church – HH. Matthias
109. Youth Association for Development
Countries of Signatories
3. United Kingdom
14. Bosnia and Herzegovina
15. Timor Leste
17. South Korea