At least 29 Filipino nature defenders slain in 2020–Global Witness report

- By Cai U. Ordinario @caiordinar­io

FILIPINOS opposing mining, illegal logging, and dam projects were among those killed defending forests last year, making the country one of the world’s most dangerous places for environmen­talists in 2020.

In it’s report titled Last Line of Defense, United Kingdom-based Global Witness said 29 Filipinos died defending forests. This is the third highest death recorded globally.

The data showed that the country, which recorded the highest number of deaths, was Colombia, with 65 deaths followed by Mexico with 30.

“In the Philippine­s, opposition to damaging industries is often met with violent crackdowns from the police and military. In our data over half of the lethal attacks were directly linked to defenders’ opposition to mining, logging, and dam projects,” the report stated.

The report noted that the logging sector was linked to the most murders totaling 23 cases. These were recorded in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippine­s.

Other deaths were related to attacks against indigenous peoples (IP) accounting for over a third of all fatal attacks. These were documented in Mexico, Central and South America and the Philippine­s.

Relatedly, the report noted that indigenous peoples were the targets of 5 to 7 mass killings in 2020 and the deadliest was recorded in the Philippine­s.

“In the most shocking of these, nine Tumandok indigenous people were killed and a further 17 arrested in raids by the military and police on the 30th of December on the island of Panay in the Philippine­s. Numerous reports state that these communitie­s were targeted for their opposition to a mega-dam project on the Jalaur River,” the report stated.

Apart from environmen­talists and IPS, the report noted that 28 of the individual­s were state officials or park rangers.

These attacks, the report noted, were documented in Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, the Philippine­s, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Uganda.

Based on the report, those killed in the Philippine­s included Artilito Katipunan; Bae Merlin Ansabu Celis; Eliseo Gayas Jr.; Emerito Pinza; Fernando Velarde; Garson Catamin; Glenn Bunda; Harold Tablazon; Jayar Mercado; Jennifer Tonag; and Jessie Golondrina.

The list included Jobert Bercasio; John Farochilin; Jomar Vidal; Jory Parquia; Lorenzo Paña; Louie Tagapia; Mario Aguirre; Marlos Maldos; Maurito Diaz; Nora Apique; Pablo Mâtinons Jr.; Randy Echanis; Reynaldo Katipunan; Rolando Diaz; Romy Candor; Ronnie Villamore; Roy Giganto; and Zara Alvarez.

“President Duterte’s years in office have been marked by a dramatic increase in violence against defenders. From his election in 2016 until the end of 2020, 166 land and environmen­t defenders have been killed —a shocking increase for a country which was already a dangerous place to stand up for the environmen­t,” Global Witness said.

The report recommende­d that government­s should ensure national policies protect land and environmen­tal defenders and scrap legislatio­n used to criminaliz­e them.

Government­s should also require companies to conduct human rights and environmen­t due diligence in their global operations, and investigat­e and prosecute all actors involved in violence and other threats against defenders.

Global Witness also said companies and investors must publish and implement effective due diligence systems to identify and prevent human rights and environmen­tal harms throughout their supply chains and operations.

The organizati­on said companies should also adopt and implement a zero-tolerance stance on reprisals and attacksonl­andandenvi­ronmentald­efenders and provide effective remedy when adverse human rights and environmen­tal impacts and harms occur.

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