26 October 2018

Environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) upped the pressure on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to have Sherwin de Vera, coordinator of the Ilocos Network for the Environment – Defend Ilocos, removed from its proscription list of names the department accused as affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“The Department of Justice must immediately withdraw its terror list as it endangers the lives of innocent people like De Vera. The recent massacre of nine (9) sugar workers in Sagay, Negros Occidental was founded on a systematic red-tagging campaign similar to these harassments and attacks that De Vera and hundreds other defenders have confronted,” said Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“Why is environmental defense and active citizenship seen as terrorism in the eyes of the Duterte regime? How much has the big mines, dams, and energy projects paid the Duterte government to crack down on environmental defenders and social activists?” Dulce asked.

Among the environmental campaigns that De Vera and Defend Ilocos had been waging include struggles against the proposed construction of dams in Naguilian, La Union; The campaign to block the construction of transnational energy firm Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation (GLEDC)’s 670-megawatt Coal-Fired Power Plant in Luna, La Union; and the opposition to the entry and mining operations of Nickel Asia subsidiary Cordillera Exploration Company Inc. (CEXCI) in the hinterland towns of Ilocos Sur.

CEXCI has a pending application for a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) spanning 63,211 hectares covering upland towns within Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province.

“Environmentally-destructive enterprises such as CEXCI, Naguilian Mini Hydro Electric Power Corp., and GLEDC stand to benefit the most with de Vera and his organization out of their way. DOJ’s terror list is clearly a weapon to clear away environmental defenders and critics of the Duterte regime standing in the way of the oligarchs and corporations that Duterte’s government has been coddling,’ he added.

De Vera has been continuously subjected to human rights violations. In December 2017, he was arrested by State security forces based on a trumped-up charge of rebellion after being subjected to an extensive period of surveillance. Despite getting out of jail on bail, Sherwin continues to be blatantly surveilled, including the latest series of surveillance incidents at the Kalikasan PNE office where De Vera had a meeting regarding his pending case days earlier.

“Despite conjuring spectres of communist take-over and tagging Duterte critics as destabilizers, people will continue to resist against dams, coal power plants, and mining projects which threaten their right to a healthful and balanced ecology. The Duterte regime is making a mistake that terror-tagging environmental defenders will cow them into submission and allow so-called development projects to get away with their pollution and plunder,” Dulce said.

In a resolution released last July, four of the 600 individuals in the DOJ’s list have been cleared by a Manila Court. The four individuals were UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Ibaloi lawyer Jose Molintas, National Democratic Front consultant Rafael Baylosis, and former legislator Satur Ocampo.#