Science and Environment

UN asked to investigate deaths of environmental defenders

Ding Cervantes - The Philippine Star

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga , Philippines  – The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) urged members of the 43rd UN Human Rights Council to establish a “commission of inquiry” following reports that 157 “environmental defenders” have been killed, 11 in enforced disappearances, and 106 arrested on trumped-up charges under the Duterte government.

In a statement Tuesday from Geneva where the UN council is in session, environmental group Kalikasan coordinator Clemente Bautista said “there are serious challenges to life, security and liberty of environmental defenders in the Philippines, which redound to transgressions on the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment of communities, including that of indigenous peoples and peasants.”

He said that during the UN session, EcuVoice “appealed to member states to conduct an independent fact-finding mission or establish a Commission of Inquiry in the Philippines to investigate the worsening human rights situation under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, including attacks on environmental defenders.”

Bautista noted that while the Philippines was cited in the UN event as one of 110 countries with legislation upholding the principles of the right to safe, healthy, clean and sustainable environment, “people’s rights to a balanced and healthful ecology continue to be violated.”

He said “the Philippines is identified as having one of the fastest rates of biodiversity loss in the world.”?

“In 2018, it was cited as the most dangerous place for environmental defenders by international watchdog Global Witness,” Bautista noted.?

The Philippine mission to the UN event cited laws such as the writ of kalikasan and establishment of green courts to hasten the process of environmental cases, but that these have remained inadequate.

Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, an indigenous Manobo leader, reported to the UN that most environmental defenders killed in the Philippines were indigenous peoples and peasants who were the frontliners protecting the country’s forest and land resources.

“In the course of conserving our natural resources and defending communities from big mining companies, commercial loggers, and agro-corporations, indigenous peoples and peasants are targeted for extrajudicial executions and judicial harassment.

“Many of my fellow environmental defenders in Surigao del Sur are subject to trumped-up charges, while at least 60 families from the community where I came from in Lianga recently evacuated from their homes due to indiscriminate firing and relentless attacks by the military,” Cullamat said.     

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