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U.N. experts urged to probe killings of environmental defenders in PH

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental and human rights groups urged United Nations (UN) independent experts to probe the unresolved killings of environmental defenders in the Philippines after the country was tagged as the most dangerous country for environmental activists

International watchdog Global Witness in its annual report recorded the deaths of some 30 Filipino environmental activists in 2018, including the 9 farmers that were massacred in Negros Occidental last October. 

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary-general Cristina Palabay in a press conference on Tuesday, July 30, said that not one of these killings were brought to justice.

In response, KARAPATAN and Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (PNE) said they had requested for UN special rapporteurs to conduct their own investigations. 

"We are trying to persuade certain rapporteurs to visit the Philippines, whether formally or informally, just to have them get a complete grasp of the situation of land and environmental defenders in the Philippines," Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce told Rappler on Tuesday.

"Global Witness has already pointed out that the Philippines is the deadliest country in the world for land and environmental defenders, so the urgency of the issue is of great importance," he added.

Aside from this, Dulce said they are also pushing for the passage of a bill seeking to protect human rights defenders. In July, Senator Leila de Lima has refiled the bill that is said to also include environmental defenders. 

But Kalikasan PNE is also seeking to have a separate bill that will cater only to environmental defenders in a bid to include more effective parameters around strategic lawsuits against public participation.  

Dulce said they are eyeing to have a bill filed within August with the help of some partner legislators. 

"The State as primary duty bearer must hold the big business and government agencies accountable to the highest human rights standards," Dulce added. 

"The passage of a national law protecting environmental human rights defenders is urgently needed," he added. – Rappler.com

Samantha Ellen Fanger is a Rappler intern from the Ateneo de Manila University.