Environmental defenders bring ‘abduction’ case before UN

March 6, 2024

A pro-environment group has officially lodged a complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders, Michel Forst, regarding the abduction of activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro.

The filing, made on March 5, 2024, aims to draw international attention to the alarming circumstances surrounding the activists’ disappearance, who are known for their opposition to reclamation projects.

Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of the group, expressed hopes that the Special Rapporteur will “thoroughly examine the failure of the Dutch state and Dutch company Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Boskalis) to take measures to prevent the abduction from taking place”.

The Dutch company was commissioned by San Miguel Corporation to carry out dredging and reclamation operations for the controversial 2,500-hectare airport project in Bulacan, near Manila, according to the group. 

Bonifacio stressed the perilous environment in the Philippines for environmental defenders, urging the Netherlands government to ensure due diligence before supporting projects likely to exacerbate these conditions.

Kalikasan said the Dutch state in 2022 awarded 1.5 billion euros worth of export credit insurance covering its operations in Manila Bay, through state bank Atradius DSB.

The group contends that the project has led to an escalation in military presence and subsequent reprisals against environmental defenders like Castro and Tamano.

“Our filing of the complaint is a continuation of our demand for justice for Jhed and Jonila, and of our demand to put a stop to the massive, destructive reclamation in Manila Bay,” said Bonifacio. 

Bonifacio called upon the international community to spotlight human rights and environmental abuses under the current administration and to hold responsible corporations and government institutions accountable for actions detrimental to people and the planet.

Castro and Tamano went missing in Orion town, Bataan province on September 2. After 17 days, the military presented them as rebel surrenderees and admitted that the activists were in government custody.

In a press briefing arranged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in Plaridel town, Bulacan province on September 19, Castro and Tamano revealed that they were “forced to sign” an affidavit stating that they were members of the communist party.

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