As we celebrate World Environment Day this June 5, 2020, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) calls on the Philippine government to listen to the cry of the Earth. The Duterte administration must listen to the cry of the rural poor who are devastated with the impacts of the lockdown that was imposed because of COVID 19. And with shocked disbelief, we reject and condemn the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill in Congress.
COVID19 is a direct outcome of the links between extraction, climate change and pandemics. Destructive mining operations bring deforestation to large areas in the Philippines, mostly in the remaining forests and watersheds. This deforestation and permanent land use change contributes to global climate change which in turn creates biological and behavioral changes in insects and animals. And these changes lead to new diseases and pandemics like COVID19.
World Environment Day is an important reminder to us that we need a bigger and deeper understanding of these links. Equally vital is we must listen to the voices of the affected communities who are leading the fight to protect our natural resources, and struggling against destructive practices such as large-scale mining in forest and watersheds. In many instances, resisting the destruction of the environment requires communities to stand-up, criticize, protest and resist the aggressive and illegal activities of mining corporations.
Those who are protecting our environment the most are also some of the poorest and most marginalized sectors, such as indigenous peoples, farmers, fishers and rural women. These environmental activists already face risks and threats when they actively organize the communities, put up barricades and checkpoints and prevent the illegal operations of destructive mining in the country.
The passage of the anti-terror bill is an additional threat to land rights defenders and environmental activists in the Philippines. With the shrinking space for civil society already constrained by the lockdown during this COVID19, this anti-terror bill is not a solution to address the pandemic nor will it contribute to protection and conservation of our environment and natural resources. The Philippines is already one of the deadliest country for environmentalists and land defenders, and this new law will only intensify the risks and threats they face.
ATM calls for the scrapping of the Anti-Terror Bill and we stand in solidarity with those who are defending human rights and protecting the rights defenders.