MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippines is the third deadliest country in the world for environmental activists, an international group reported.
London-based Global Witness, an organization probing corruption and environmental issues, released a report this week recording 67 killings of environmental activists in the Philippines over the past 12 years, making it the deadliest country for environmental defenders in Asia and the third in the world, next to Brazil and Honduras.
“In the Philippines, the risks to environmental and land defenders are acute…People have been killed opposing numerous environmental threats, including illegal logging, waste dumping, expansion of biofuel plantations and the construction of large-scale hydroelectric dams,” the Global Witness report stated.
Most killings of environmental activists, however, were suspected to have been caused by “opposition to mining operations,” according to the international group.
“The Philippines is rich in natural resources and has a significant mining industry, but there is very little transparency in this sector, with mining contracts and data seldom made public. Rules requiring mining companies to consult with and gain consent from communities who live in areas in which the firms seek to operate are not consistently followed,” the report read.
In March 2012, for instance, anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon was shot dead in front of his family. The suspect in the killing, Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, has a standing arrest warrant, but remains at large.
‘State forces behind killings’
Global Witness attributed some of the killings of environmental activists in the Philippines to “state forces.”
“Of the few cases where the identity of the perpetrators have been documented, state forces are suspected of being behind the killings. Key state institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, are weak, and the military and the police are known to commit human rights violations with little accountability,” the report stated.
The group also noted how some of the assassinations had “deep political ties,” such as the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in January 2011. Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, are being implicated in the Ortega slay and are among the country’s most wanted fugitives.
The international organization also pointed out the government’s inability to jail perpetrators of these killings. According to the group, only two perpetrators of the 67 confirmed killings of environmental activists have been imprisoned.
“The capacity and willingness of the judicial system to deliver justice for victims and their families is low in the Philippines, where involuntary disappearance only recently became a recognized crime and few killings have been resolved,” the group said in its report.
The organization also called on the Philippine government to “take immediate steps… to respect, protect and promote” the rights of environmental defenders in the country.
Global Witness is an international non-government organization which “investigates and campaigns to change the system by exposing the economic networks behind conflict, corruption and environmental destruction.”
The group previously investigated illegal timber trade in Cambodia and Thailand, as well as the diamond trade that supposedly funded the Angolan Civil War from 1975 to 2002. (MNS)