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Duterte’s broken promises leave environment, land defenders at greater risk — watchdog

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Duterteâs broken promises leave environment, land defenders at greater risk â watchdog
File photo shows environmental activist group Alyansa Tigil Mina picketing near Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, File

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has failed to keep his promise to safeguard rural communities in the Philippines as the risks faced by environmental and land defenders continue to worsen under his administration, an international rights watchdog said.  

In a report released Tuesday, Global Witness stressed there was a “disturbing” jump in the violence faced by community activists, indigenous leaders and NGO workers who oppose logging, mining and fruit growing businesses last year.

“Here was a president promising to use his strength to stand up to big business and powerful vested interests; to do what was right for his people and the planet. This would necessarily mean tackling the root causes of the threats facing land and environmental defenders,” Global Witness said.

“Yet in practice, Duterte has so far failed to keep his promises and the killings of those protecting their lands have reached record levels,” it added.

In a report published last July, Global Witness said the Philippines was the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land activists in 2018 with at least 30 recorded deaths. Eighteen percent of the 164 environment-related deaths recorded last year took place in the Southeast Asian nation.

There were at least 113 murdered environmental and land activists since Duterte became president in July 2016. Three years before his administration, no fewer than 65 were killed.

“It demonstrates President Duterte’s total failure to protect them despite his firm promises to tackle the issues which put them at risk. This is a historic crisis that is getting worse under the current regime,” the watchdog said.

It called on Duterte to guarantee communities a say on how businesses use their land, root out corruption and clamp down on environmental abuses.

“It is not too late for Duterte to stand by his commitments and, in doing so, tackle the root causes of the conflicts which lead to threats and attacks against defenders,” Global Witness said.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS GLOBAL WITNESS RODRIGO DUTERTE
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