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Philippines 'deadliest country in Asia' for eco-warriors

At least 28 pro-environment activists were killed in the Philippines in 2016, new report says

Philippines 'deadliest country in Asia' for eco-warriors

Environmental activists hold a rally outside the office of the Environment department in Manila in April to protest what they described as the "business as usual" policy of the government on "environmentally destructive projects." (Photo by Mike Taboy)

Joe Torres, Manila

July 14, 2017

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The Philippines has been named the "deadliest country" in Asia for environmental defenders and, for four consecutive years, remains one of the deadliest countries in the world.

"Defenders of the Earth," a report released on July 14 by London-based group Global Witness, noted that at least 28 pro-environment activists were killed in the Philippines in 2016.

Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Manila's Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said he expects the trend "to worsen in 2017."

Dulce noted that despite the change in the country's political leaders last year there is "no fundamental change in the country’s environmental policies."

Kalikasan, the local partner organization of Global Witness, has already monitored 10 cases of "environment-related killings" during the first half of this year.

The report declared 2016 as the "deadliest year for environment and land defenders" with at least 200 people killed every week across the globe.

Mining was clearly the bloodiest trade, with at least 33 murders linked to the sector, according to the report.

Killings linked to logging companies increased from 15 to 23 incidents in one year, while there were 23 killings connected to agribusiness projects.

Almost 40 percent of those killed were tribal people, with police and soldiers as suspected perpetrators in at least 43 murders.


Most number of killings

The Philippines has been among countries with the highest number of killings since 2013, when Global Witness first launched the international report. 

The international NGO has recorded a total of 144 killings in the country since 2002.

The local pro-environment Kalikasan noted that there is a "worsening impunity" against environmental activists under the one-year old administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

From June 2016 to the present, the environment group monitored at least 17 environment-related killings.

"Mining-related killings accounted for 47 percent of the cases we monitored during the first year of the Duterte administration," said Dulce.

State armed forces were accused of being involved in 41 percent of these cases, and 65 percent were perpetrated in the southern region of Mindanao.

"Military, paramilitary, and police forces should immediately be pulled out of rural communities," said Dulce.

He said the continuing policies of the government to promote "environmentally destructive projects have brought about the increasing human rights violations among environmental defenders."

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