5 December 2018

Around 100 environmental defenders from various ecologically-sensitive areas across the country facing reprisals and other human rights violations are pushing to have their respective landscapes be declared as special protected areas in the First National Environmental Defenders Conference held today at the University of the Philippines Diliman National Science Complex.

“Environmental defenders across the Philippines are at the forefront of protecting over at least 747,000 hectares of lands and coastal areas against big mining, plantation expansion, logging, megadams, and other environmentally-destructive enterprises. Since 2001, over 178 of them have paid with their lives to help save these areas. It is high time to recognize their sacrifices by demilitarizing and declaring their landscapes as special protected areas,” said Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of Kalikasan.

Among those areas where there have been human rights violations and killings of environmental defenders include the 45,000-hectare watershed forests of Talaingod, Davao del Norte threatened by various logging and mining applications; the 1,200 hectares of land in Masbate threatened by the mining of Filminera; and 11,900 hectares of ancestral land in Sultan Kudarat threatened by a plantation owned by DM Consunji Inc (DMCI) and coal mining blocks by San Miguel Energy.

“The plethora of human rights violations we monitored in at least 21 of the 28 large-scale mines supposedly for closure or suspension demonstrates the impunity of plunder and militarization over our natural resource corridors. We demand the Duterte government to walk its talk of punishing big mines and other environmental criminals, especially those with atrocious rights track records. Duterte must pull out his military and paramilitary forces from the landscapes defenders are protecting as it contribute to 70 percent of environment-related killings,” Dulce said.

Dulce also pointed out that the prevailing economic and political system in the Philippines which breeds a hostile environment for environmental defenders have worsened under the Duterte administration.

“The Mining Act of 1995 is still in place despite Duterte’s populism. He also has his ‘Build-Build-Build’ and has made pronouncements of finding ‘investors’ for the Lumad. He has no shortage of those ‘friendly investors’ as some of them are his election financiers. Internal security policies such as the counter insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and he declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao are his bloody investment guarantees,” he said.

The National Environmental Defenders’ Conference, the first of its kind in the country, seeks to gather and train environmental defenders from across the country on how to effectively deal with the myriad of threats facing them.#

Participants of the First National Environmental Defenders’ Conference