MANILA, Philippines, September 14 ------ The Philippines remains the worst place for land and environmental defenders in Asia, according to the latest annual report of the UK-based international human rights and environmental group Global Witness. In the report titled “The Last Line of Defense,” Global Witness noted a total of 227 environmental defenders murdered across the world, the deadliest year on record. The Philippines ranked third overall with 29 killings, behind Colombia (65) and Mexico (30), making it the country with the highest figures outside the Americas.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, yesterday said: “Global Witness data demonstrate that the murder of environmental defenders doubled under the Duterte government compared to its predecessor. We clearly need a new leadership that will protect our nature’s frontliners and stop destructive projects that aggravate our country’s ecological, climate, and human-rights crises.” Kalikasan PNE is a leading partner of Global Witness in documenting environmental defender killings.
The report said the worst massacre on record occurred in the Philippines when nine indigenous Tumandok tribe leaders and members were massacred last Dec. 30, 2020. The incident also led to the arrest of 17 other indigenous people, all of who have been vocal against the Jalaur mega-dam project in Panay Island. It further noted that a total of 166 land and environmental defenders were killed since President Duterte assumed office in July 2016 until the end of 2020, which is double the number killed under the previous regime. “The plight of environmental defenders will only get worse under the Duterte regime. President Duterte continued to appoint the likes of retired generals Antonio Parlade and Debold Sinas to critical positions in government despite their atrocious human rights track records,” Dulce pointed out.
“The President has also embarked on extractive and destructive policies and programs such as Mining Executive Order 130 and re-intensified Build Build Build infrastructure like the Kaliwa Dam and the Manila Bay Aerocity. These industries have track records of really leaving a trail of blood,” he added. Based on the report, the Philippines’ 29 killings last year were lower than the 43 and 30 deaths registered in the country in 2019 and 2018.
“On average, our data show that four defenders have been killed every week since the signing of the Paris Climate agreement – but this shocking figure is almost certainly an underestimate, with growing restrictions on journalism and other civic freedoms, meaning cases are likely being unreported,” Global Witness said. Other countries on the list include Brazil, Honduras, Peru, Nicaragua, India and Indonesia. Global Witness said in 2020 the disproportionate number of attacks against indigenous communities continued – with over a third of all fatal attacks targeting indigenous people in Mexico, Central and South America, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
The report stressed that figures show the human cost of the destruction wrought by exploitative industries and corporations. It added that at least 30 percent of recorded attacks were reportedly linked to resource exploitation – across logging, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure, mining and large-scale agribusiness. Global Witness said logging was the industry linked to the most murders with 23 cases – with attacks in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines. “One day, we hope to report an end to the violence against those defending our planet and their land, but until governments get serious about protecting defenders and companies start putting people and planet before profit, both climate breakdown and the killings will continue,” Global Witness senior campaigner Chris Madden said.