THE Philippines has brushed aside a recent report which said the country was the third among the deadliest countries for environmental activists, local media reported.
According to the Manila Times, the Malacanang presidential palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government does not condone any form of violence against activists who defended the environment in the country.
“The Philippines has been declared as among the deadliest countries in the world for environmental defenders for four straight years. Mining-related killings accounted for the plurality of these cases, with indigenous Lumad people as among the hardest hit, according to the report,” Abella said in a statement.
“We do not condone such violence and intimidation.”
Abella was referring to research by the international non-government organisation Global Witness which also said the Philippines was listed as the “deadliest” country in Asia for land and environmental defenders for the fourth year in a row in 2016.
A report released on Thursday night in the Philippines entitled Defenders of the Earth: Global Killings of Land and Environmental Defenders in 2016 recorded 28 killings last year in the largely Roman Catholic nation. Brazil topped the 2016 global listing with 49 killings, followed by Colombia with 37.
Numbers of killings were found not only to be growing, but spreading out geographically as well. In 2016, Global Witness documented 200 killings across 24 countries, compared to 185 across 16 in 2015. Almost 40 per cent of those murdered were indigenous peoples.
That means nearly four people were murdered every week in 2016 while protecting their land, forests and rivers from mining, logging and agricultural companies, Global Witness said. The report notes that Asia saw an 18 per cent increase in murders of activists in 2016.
“The Philippines is consistently one of the deadliest places to defend the environment, with 28 killings in 2016; most linked to struggles against mining,” it said.
The Philippines has been among the highest number of killings since 2013, when Global Witness first launched the international report. The NGO has recorded a total of 144 cases of killings in the country since 2002.
Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the Philippine partner organisations of Global Witness, said they expect the trend to worsen this year “with no fundamental change in the country’s environmental policies on one hand, and the increasingly fascist police and military campaigns of President Rodrigo Duterte on the other.”
“In just the first half of 2017, we have monitored at least 10 more cases of environment-related killings,” Dulce said in a statement.
However, Abella, said the government was making efforts to ensure that the environmental activists, including the affected indigenous tribes, are protected.
“Government has thus established the Indigenous Peoples Inter-Agency Task Force composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources , its corporate arm, the Natural Resources Development Corp. and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to ensure that indigenous peoples are not subjected to undue pressure and influence from unscrupulous businessmen intending to extract natural resources from their ancestral lands,” Abella said in the statement.