AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People expresses grave concern over the recently published report of international watchdog Global Witness, which revealed that 11 environmental and land rights defenders have been killed in the Philippines in 2022. The report also revealed that the Philippines is the deadliest country in Asia for 10 consecutive years and 5th deadliest in the world this year.

“The Philippines being the deadliest country for environmental defenders in Asia for the past decade exposes not only how the government fails to protect those who advocate for environmental protection and conservation, but also how it plays an active role in attacking them,” expressed Cleng Julve, Advocacy and Alliances Officer of AGHAM. Most of the killings in 2022 happened during the last 6 months of the Duterte administration. The bloodiest among these killings happened on February 24, 2022 when the Philippine Army massacred Lumad school teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo and their three other companions in New Bataan, Davao de Oro.

“While most of the reported killings happened during the finals months of the Duterte administration, we still cannot overlook the fact that killings and forced disappearances of environmental defenders continue under the Marcos Jr. regime,” continued Julve. Human rights watchdog Karapatan recently showed that the number of forced disappearances under the current administration have reached up to 10. The most recent case happened only more than a week ago when unidentified and armed men abducted anti-reclamation activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. A recent fact-finding mission revealed that Castro experienced state surveillance prior to their abduction. Last April, indigenous rights advocates Gene Roz “Bazoo” de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan were also abducted and have not surfaced until now. “The Marcos Jr. administration’s silence and inaction over the killings and forced disappearances of environmental defenders is alarming,” added Julve. “Why does the state seem reluctant to defend those who defend the environment? Worse, they are the ones who persecute environmental defenders.”

All over the country, environmental defenders are opposing destructive development projects such as mining, mega dams, reclamation, coal-fired and liquefied natural gas plants, waste-to-energy via incineration, mariculture and ecotourism, and various infrastructure projects. “Despite the public clamor to protect the environment, the government continues to approve destructive projects,” said Julve. “With the ongoing climate crisis, the implementation of these projects will threaten our food security and exacerbate hazards experienced by vulnerable communities and sectors.”

The red-tagging, surveillance, intimidation, illegal arrest, abduction and killing of environmental defenders will only aggravate the climate crisis. Worse, top government offices and officials have been using confidential funds used in violating the human rights of the Filipino people, particularly activists and environmental defenders. “It is a great shame that the government is spending hundreds of millions of confidential funds for state surveillance and anti-insurgency programs while slashing the budget for other agencies that cater to basic social services such as health, education and food security,” said Julve. “Instead of addressing poverty, hunger, landlessness and unemployment, the state is spending millions in hunting down progressive individuals and groups advocating for genuine societal change.”

The 2023 Global Witness report exposes the government’s failure to protect environmental defenders amid the worsening climate crisis. “If the government is not willing to protect the environment and its defenders, then more people shall rise to protect and fight for what’s precious to us,” ended Julve. ### 


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