Green groups hold Duterte accountable for impunity on killings of envi defenders
December 8, 2021 | Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
In a forum held today in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) pinned down the Duterte administration for its persistent impunity for the human rights violations committed against environmental rights defenders.
Citing a 2020 report by Global Witness titled “Last Line of Defence”, ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said there have been 29 killings which occurred in the Philippines out of 227 lethal attacks against environmentalists globally.
“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 added. “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.”
The forum organized by ATM is part of the week-long activities of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (IDdefend) on the occasion of International Human Rights Day. ATM marked December 8 as the Day of Environmental Rights Defenders as it gathered national and community leaders in a forum discussing the situation of environmental activists.
“Just like anyone else’s, the human rights of environmental rights defenders should be upheld and protected by the State. But the grim reality is: we, who struggle for the rights of our communities and the environment, are the ones being harassed, our rights violated. 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 Malou Verano of Masbate and ATM’s Mining and Women Working Group.
Meanwhile, Myrna Duyan of Bileg Dagiti Babbe narrated that their community barricade in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya was violently dispersed last April by around 100 police personnel. She explained that the barricade was meant to stop the company from further operating, but they were met by police forces three times their number to assist the entry of Oceana Golds’ fuel tanker.
“An indigenous leader was stripped of his clothes, handcuffed and beaten, and illegally detained by the police. Indigenous women leaders and community members also suffered physical injuries, and psychological and emotional trauma,” Duyan said.
According to Garganera, “alongside the killings and harassment of environmental human rights defenders, the Duterte administration has brought more woes to mining-affected communities by reversing the mining policy established by former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.”
Through Executive Order 130, Duterte’s new mining policy, mining is again indiscriminately allowed in the communities. EO 130 has the following effects: i) lifts the moratorium on mining applications; ii) weakens the ban on open-pit mining; iii) reduces the role of local government units in accepting or rejecting mining projects and iv) reverses the administrative orders to suspend or cancel mining contracts that violated environmental laws.
Garganera also pointed out that at the height of the pandemic, government stealthily approved mining projects, such as the offshore blacksand mining in Lingayen Gulf.
“We denounce the way this government has used the pandemic to surreptitiously approve mining agreements and allow the entry of mining in the communities,” said Garganera. “Government claims that mining will contribute to economic recovery is patently false. Government data itself reveal that mining’s contribution to annual GDP is less than 1%.”
The ATM Coordinator also lamented the “shrinking democratic space in the country”, which is the direct result of the repressive laws and policies ushered in by the Duterte administration. “We believe that the shrinking space for activism is directly linked to the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), Executive Order #70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Authorities have used these laws to red-tag and harass local activists, especially indigenous peoples and women,” he said.
ATM continues to stand in solidarity with locally-affected communities who have decided to protect their environment. It vowed to hold President Duterte and the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) accountable for their failure to implement environmental laws and protect the environmental rights defenders.
For details, please contact:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator
(+63917) 5498218 / email@example.com
Rhoda Viajar, Media Officer
(+63917) 8250346/ firstname.lastname@example.org