MANILA, Philippines – At least 28 land and environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines – the highest number in Asia for the 4th straight year, according to the latest report by environmental monitor Global Witness.
In its July 13 report “Defenders of the Earth: Global killings of land and environmental defenders in 2016,” Global Witness noted that “a voracious mining industry makes the Philippines stand out for killings in Asia.”
Out of the 28 defenders, a third were campaigning against mining and extractives. Half of those killed were indigenous peoples.
“The [Philippine] government’s regulatory rhetoric on mining is contradicted by a discourse threatening defenders,” the report said.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, one of the domestic partner organizations of Global Witness, said the international monitor has recorded a total of 144 killings in the Philippines since 2002.
“The Philippines is once against declared as among the deadliest countries in the world for environmental defenders for 4 years running. The trend is expected to worsen by 2017 with no fundamental change in the country’s environmental policies on one hand, and increasingly fascist police and military campaigns of President Rodrigo Duterte on the other,” Kalikasan campaign coordinator Leon Dulce said in a statement on Thursday, July 13.
Kalikasan also monitored at least 17 environment-related killings from June 2016 up to the present. The group said this is the “worst annual rate of killings over the past two administrations spanning 16 years.”
“Mining-related killings accounted for 47% of the cases we monitored during the 1st year of the Duterte administration. Suspected state armed forces were accused of being involved in 41% of these cases, and 65% were perpetrated in the island of Mindanao where plunder and militarization is most widespread,” Dulce explained.
This “worsening impunity” against environmental defenders in the Philippines, Kalikasan said, is “rooted in the fundamentally unchanged economic policies especially on extractive and destructive projects, enforced by its bloody counter-insurgency operations.”
According to Kalikasan, the indigenous Lumad of Mindanao are among the hardest hit by the increasing militarization.
Dulce said the Duterte administration must be held accountable for this worsening impunity in the country. (READ: Groups ‘draw strength’ from environment lawyer’s life, death)
“Military, paramilitary, and police forces should immediately be pulled out of rural communities to stem the militarization, and a full-blown investigation into the country’s security and counter-insurgency programs should be launched,” he added.
He also said Duterte’s “continuing diatribes against mining oligarchs and other environmental plunderers” should lead to an investigation of “corporate interests that have benefited from militarization.”
“If we do not hold the big mines and other extractive and destructive projects accountable over human rights atrocities, we will only perpetuate their business-as-usual operations,” Dulce added.
Just this week, Duterte warned mining companies that he will order them to compensate farmers and fishpond owners whose livelihoods suffer from the firms’ operations.
The President said the “mining impasse” is one problem he needs to solve after the crisis in Marawi City is over.
According to Global Witness’ latest report, mining is still the most dangerous sector globally, with at least 33 people reported killed in 2016.
In total, at least 200 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2016 – the deadliest year on record. – Rappler.com
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