Killing of Filipino environmentalists 'results in ecological damage'

Report estimates total damages would amount to about US$19 billion annually
Killing of Filipino environmentalists 'results in ecological damage'

Students take part in a worldwide climate rally at the University of the Philippines' campus in Manila on Sept. 20, 2019. They demanded that adults take action to stave off environmental disaster. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)

The killings of environmental defenders in the Philippines has resulted in ecological damage that will cost about one trillion pesos (US$19 billion) a year, according to a report from an environmental group.

The report from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment noted that crackdowns against environment activists in recent years has resulted in "extensive ecological risks."

The report was submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights this week.

It added that at least 19,498 environmental defenders were subjected to "a wide range of human rights abuses" in the Philippines during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"This crackdown threatens to open up 6.2 million hectares of critical landscapes and seascapes under the protection of defenders from extractive and destructive interests," said Clemente Bautista Jr., international network coordinator of Kalikasan.

According to the report, a rough estimate of the total damage would amount to about 1.04 trillion pesos annually, or equivalent to 28 percent of the country’s national budget in 2019.

Among the areas listed as facing threats are the Pantaron Mountain Range in Mindanao and the protected areas of El Nido-Taytay and Victoria-Anepahan on the island of Palawan.

The report recorded 19,178 people affected by forced evacuation spurred by military operations in resource conflict areas.

At least 106 people were reported to have been illegally arrested and 46 others included in terror listings from July 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2019.

The sharper end of the violations recorded were 11 victims of enforced disappearance and 157 victims of extrajudicial killings.

The pro-environment group noted that rights abuses were driven by economic policies on mining, agribusiness, forestry and other industries.

It added that internal security measures have functioned as an "investment guarantee" for various big business projects.

Kalikasan called on the United Nations to consider initiating a fact-finding mission to look into the situation in conflict areas and formulate resolutions to alleviate the "national human rights crisis."

In December, the organization reported that 46 environmental defenders in the Philippines were killed in 2019. The group documented 30 deaths in 2018.

The Philippines was the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land defenders in 2018, according to a report published by international rights watchdog Global Witness in July 2019.

In 2018, Duterte signed an order which directed the deployment of more troops to several provinces to combat the spread of a communist insurgency. He also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict through an executive order.

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