Pro-environment activists held the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for what they described as the “persistent impunity for the human rights violations committed against environmental rights defenders” in the country.
Citing a 2020 report by Global Witness titled “Last Line of Defense,” Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), said 29 killings of environmental defenders out of 227 attacks against environmentalists around the world happened in the Philippines.
“This is the third highest recorded for a country, making the Philippines the most dangerous country for environmentalists in Asia,” he said. “Despite this alarming number, the Duterte administration miserably failed to either resolve or put a stop to the rampant killings.”
“What is more disconcerting is that the killings are directly related to the protection of forests and natural resources of local and indigenous communities,” Garganera said, adding that “the very people who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of preserving the environment are the ones who are being killed.”
“This is the height of injustice as environmental rights defenders neither harm nature nor communities,” he said.
Environmental activists held a forum on Wednesday, December 8, to mark the week-long observance of International Human Rights Day. The activists also marked December 8 as “Day of Environmental Rights Defenders.”
“Just like anyone else’s, the human rights of environmental rights defenders should be upheld and protected by the State,” said Malou Verano of the Mining and Women Working Group of ATM.
Verano said “the grim reality” is those who struggle for the rights of communities and the environment, are the ones being harassed.
“What is worse is that this is done to advance the interests of mining companies and to push for destructive mining in the communities at a time when climate change threatens our very existence,” said Verano.
Garganera said that with the killings and harassment of environmental human rights defenders, “the Duterte administration has brought more woes to mining-affected communities” by reportedly reversing the mining policy established by former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
Through Executive Order 130, mining is again allowed in communities as the order lifts the moratorium on mining applications and reduces the role of local government units in accepting or rejecting mining projects.