13 March 2018
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) condemned the Duterte government for including several environmental defenders in the 649 names accused as terrorists in the petition recently filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The group said the terror-listing, which posed alarming risks of illegal arrest, detention, and even assassination, aims to stop environmental defenders from the lands and landscapes they have vigilantly protected.
“This terror-listing by the Duterte regime is an attempt to uproot the people’s resistance defending the country’s remaining forest corridors from the Cordillera Central in North Luzon to the Pantaron Mountain Ranges in Southern Mindanao. This wholesale crackdown on environmental defenders will pave the way for big mines, big dams, and other threats of large-scale plunder and environmental destruction,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
At least 10 indigenous Lumad leaders such as Datu Isidro Indao, Datu Mandayhon, Datu Mampadayag, and Mamerto Guaynon hail from various organizations under the indigenous federation Kalumaran based in the provinces bordering the Pantaron Range, a 1.8 million-hectare biogeographical region which spans from the Northern Mindanao to Davao regions.
“The Pantaron Range hosts Mindanao’s largest contiguous forest block and serve as the headwaters of the large rivers Pulangi and Agusan, providing irrigation to farmfolk downstream. It is also the home of various Lumad groups as well as endangered species such as the Philippine Eagle and Philippine Brown Deer. Lumad communities are opposing pending applications for iron and chromite mining as well as logging and plantation projects threatening Pantaron,” explained Dulce.
Terror-listed indigenous and environmental activists from the Ilocos and Cordillera regions meanwhile are leading struggles around the 1.8 million-hectare Cordillera Central Mountain Range, known for unique flora and fauna such as the bushy-tailed cloud rat in its ‘sky island’ biodiversity. It is also host to various watersheds such as the Agno watershed of Benguet supplying irrigation water to the farmers of the lowlands of Pangasinan.
The Cordillera branch of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has observed that all rivers, including the Agno, have been drying up due to lessening forest cover. The Agno river has also been affected by tailings spills of mining giant Philex in 1992 and in 2012.
Sherwin de Vera, regional coordinator of environmental advocacy group Defend Ilocos, was among those listed. His organization was successful in its campaign to stop magnetite mining in Ilocos and is currently involved in the campaign to prevent the entry and operation of Nickel Asia subsidiary Cordillera Exploration Co., Inc. (CEXCI) within the Amburayan watershed.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous Kankana-ey and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for indigenous peoples, was also included in the listing alongside other Igorot stalwarts Windel Bolinget, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chair; Joan Carling, co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group on Sustainable Development; Atty. Jose Molintas, human rights lawyer and former Asia Representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Beverly Longid, global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation; Joanna Carino, co-chair of the SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination; and Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, former CPA-Tontongan ti Umili chair.
“The government’s counter insurgency program has a long and bloody track record of targeting environmental activists as well as other civilians they consider as ‘Enemies of the State.’ In our monitoring, 77% of killings of environmental defenders under the Duterte regime are attributed to suspected as well as confirmed military, paramilitary, and other State forces. This terror-listing aims to systematically dismantle the strongest pockets of resistance against plunder and pollution in one fell sweep,” Dulce noted.
“We demand that the Duterte regime retract this atrocious terror listing. Defending the environment is not a crime, much less an act of terrorism. Duterte and his cohorts in government must be investigated and held accountable for their crimes against environmental defenders and the rest of humanity,” Dulce concluded.#