19 October 2018

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) condemns in the highest terms the red-tagging being perpetrated by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against known personalities from various organizations campaigning against the large-scale gold-copper mine of the OceanaGold mining corporation, which included Atty. Ed Balgos and Atty. Fidel Castro of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) – Nueva Vizcaya Chapter, and Finesa Cosico, National Secretary General of the AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

The AFP has been circulating pamphlets in Nueva Vizcaya bearing a list containing the names of various environmental advocates and other activists, labelling them as “NPA or New People Army,” “NPA Recruiters,” or “NPA Contacts.” Among those included in the list are notable environmental leaders such as Fr. Vic Tiam, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bayombong and chairperson of the board of the Alyansa ng Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK); Teresita Acosta, executive director of the Friends of the Environment for Development and Sustainability Inc. (FRENDS); Alfonso Shog-oy, advocacy officer of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) – Nueva Vizcaya; and Ereneo Bobola, chairperson of the Samahang pang Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa Inc. (SAPAKKMMI).

The AFP has heightened its vilification campaign against environmental defenders and other critics of the Duterte government, endangering the lives of our fellow advocates. The military’s red-tagging has been known to be followed by harassments, surveillance, and even threats of summary execution.

We have extensively worked with ANVIK, Kalikasan PNE’s partner provincial environmental alliance, and SAPAKKMI, a local people’s organization in the mining-affected town of Kasibu, in the campaign against the destructive mining operation and expansion of Australian-Canadian corporation OceanaGold in the province. Along with SAPAKKMMI and other environmental and people’s organizations in the province, FRENDS, MASIPAG – Nueva Vizcaya, and NUPL – Nueva Vizcaya are all members of ANVIK.

We have worked together with Ms. Cosico and AGHAM in investigating the unmitigated pollution crisis caused by OceanaGold that has affected the consumption, irrigation, and other needs of various downstream communities. A series of fact-finding missions, environmental investigative missions, and other technical assessments from 2013 to 2017 were conducted by AGHAM to strengthen the scientific basis of opposing this destructive and plunderous large-scale mining project.

Oceanagold has been wreaking havoc against the environment and has perpetrated human rights violations against the people of Kasibu, yet the armed forces and the police chose to train their sights against those people and organizations working only for the welfare and protection of their environment and their rights. Oceanagold’s Foreign Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) is set to expire next year, and is up for renewal. It is set to expand its operations from Didipio where it currently operates to neighboring areas such as Alimit.

This is just one of the recent spikes of human rights violations directed at our partner environmental groups. Recently, Kalikasan staff and our office have been subjected to surveillance attempts by suspected police intelligence agents looking for Sherwin de Vera, regional coordinator of environmental group Defend Ilocos, another of our organizational affiliates. Sherwin remains on the fake Department of Justice ‘terror list’ along with 45 other environmental defenders in the list of more than 600 named individuals.

Defending the environment is not a crime. It is the Duterte government’s sowing of fear among environmental defenders and slandering them as enemies of the state, such as this latest incident, that is definitely terrorism. Those behind the circulation of the list should be exposed and held accountable for endangering the lives of those on the list.#

Leon Dulce
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment