Environmental defenders vow to continue legacy of ‘green martyrs’

February 28, 2023

The Environmental Defenders Congress (EnviDefCon), a national network of green activists, vowed to continue the advocacy of five activists who reportedly died for advocating for the environment.

“On this day, we remember the New Bataan 5, Filipino environmental defenders who sacrificed their lives to protect the Philippine environment and the communities which depend on it,” said Lia Mia Torres, spokesperson of the group.

“We vow to continue our environmental advocacy which we assert to be critical to combating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and preserving the environment for future Filipino generations,” she said in a statement.

Among those who were remembered in an event held at the University of the Philippines last week were Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo, volunteer teachers in tribal schools, and Elegyn Balonga, a health worker.

On Feb. 24, 2022, the three were reportedly killed by soldiers, along with two drivers, Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon, in the town of New Bataan, Davao Del Oro.

“The horrific events of the New Bataan Massacre highlight the urgent need to protect Filipino environmental defenders,” said Torres, citing Global Witness reports that show that 270 Filipino environmental defenders have been killed since 2012.

Global Witness is an international watchdog group for environmental defenders.

Torres said the “killings were only the tip of the iceberg of violence against environmental defenders.”

“Many defenders and communities who resist the entry of destructive projects routinely experience attempts to silence them with tactics such as surveillance, red-tagging, criminalization of their work, and even sexual violence,” she said.

“This is why we call on the government to provide protection for all Filipino environmental defenders and to hold accountable those who commit violence against them,” added Torres.

“We are pushing for the enactment of an Environmental Defense Law that will protect defenders, and allow us to carry out our important work without fear of reprisals,” she said.

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