PH 2nd deadliest country for eco warriors in 2019
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines remains the deadliest country for land and environmental defenders in Asia, with laws criminalizing dissent and vilifying activists seen to reinforce the threats against them, a report by conflict and corruption watchdog Global Witness said.
The report released on Wednesday also saw the Philippines slipping to the second most dangerous country for environment warriors in 2019 after topping the grim list in 2018. Columbia, with 64 cases, ranked first.
Global Witness documented 43 earth defenders murdered in 2019, a rise from 30 killings in 2018.
“The Philippines has become even deadlier for activists,” the report said. “The relentless vilification of defenders by the government and widespread impunity for their attackers may well be driving the increase.”
More than half of those killed were from mining-affected communities, with the Philippines having the most number of mining-related deaths last year, at 16.
The watchdog said a huge majority of the killings took place in Negros Island and in Mindanao.
It cited the case of Manobo leader Datu Kaylo Bontulan, who was reportedly killed during a military airstrike in Kitaotao in Bukidnon province in April last year.
“Like Datu Kaylo, many of those killed were indigenous people asserting their right to self-determination and their ancestral lands,” the report said.
The report also noted military attacks on indigenous schools in Mindanao that drove communities to flee their ancestral lands that they had been protecting from destructive industries.
Global Witness said almost half of the documented murders under the Duterte administration were linked to state forces, or paramilitary groups, though government workers tasked to protect the environment were not spared.
The watchdog’s local partner, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, cited the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act as worsening the situation for defenders, with over 260 human rights abuses against them documented during the lockdown.
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