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Philippines condemned over environmentalist slayings

Global Witness report ranks Philippines 3rd most dangerous country for earth defenders

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Published: September 14, 2021 09:05 AM GMT

Updated: September 14, 2021 09:48 AM GMT

Philippines condemned over environmentalist slayings

Campaigners from international rights watchdog Global Witness, along with indigenous peoples, campaigners and their supporters, holds up a newly released human rights report during a press conference in Manila in this file photo.(Photo: AFP)

An international advocacy group based in the U.K. has ranked the Philippines the world’s 3rd worst country in terms of violence against defenders of the environment.

In a report released on Sept. 13 called “The Last Line of Defense,” Global Witness said 2020 saw the highest number of attacks ever recorded on environmental activists with over half of the attacks occurring in three countries — Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines.

A total of 227 environmental defenders were murdered across the world in 2020 according to the report.

“Our data shows that four defenders have been killed every week since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. But this shocking figure is almost certainly an underestimate, with growing restrictions on journalism and other civic freedoms meaning cases are likely being unreported,” Global Witness said.

The Philippines was ranked third and the worst in Asia, with 29 killings behind Colombia with 65 deaths, and Mexico with 30.

Global Witness also said that the “deteriorating” human rights situation in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power has received increasing international condemnation due to the involvement of the police and the military in the killings.

“Opposition to damaging industries is often met with violent crackdowns from the police and military,” the report added.

“President Duterte’s years in office have been marked by a dramatic increase in violence against [environmental] defenders. From his election in 2016 until the end of last year, 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.”

The report noted that such killings happened in countries where civil liberties are limited and called on government leaders to uphold human rights and do more to protect the environment.

“Governments have been all too willing to turn a blind eye and have failed in providing their core mandate of upholding and protecting human rights. They are failing to protect land and environmental defenders, in many cases directly perpetrating violence against them, and in others complicit with business,” the report said.

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Society of Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, however, said the group’s call would fall on deaf ears if the government itself was responsible for the killings.

“How can the government cooperate if it is the one responsible for the killings …? As stated in the report, one can say that in the Philippines we have state-sponsored killings with links to the military and police in every murder. So how can the government cooperate? We need to change our leader,” he told UCA News.

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