PNP chief says cops to support efforts protecting environment, its defenders

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PNP chief says cops to support efforts protecting environment, its defenders
Elite policemen patrol a market while people shop during a government imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on April 21, 2020.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Philippine National Police said on Wednesday that cops will continue to enforce environmental laws that protect not only the nature but also its defenders after the country was once again identified as the deadliest place in Asia for land activists.

In a statement, PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar said the organization will continue to support moves to protect the country’s natural resources and those on the frontlines of preserving the environment.

“The Philippine National Police will continuously coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for all forms of assistance that we could extend to empower our forest rangers in protecting our forests but in doing so, we also ask for the help of other kababayan and other stakeholders in achieving this goal,” he said.

In the Philippines, the poor enforcement of environmental laws, lack of resources and neglect are enabling illegal activities to flourish and allowing impunity to prevail.

Crackdowns from authorities

In an attempt to highlight the police’s support to environmental defenders, Eleazar cited the PNP’s response to the shooting of two forest rangers of Masungi Georeserve Foundation in Rizal.

He said that Special Action Force personnel were deployed in the area following the attack in July and are now waiting for the deputization order from the DENR.

Masungi workers have repeatedly asked for additional security assistance so forest rangers can plant trees and maintain them in peace.

In a report released on Monday by conflict and corruption watchdog Global Witness, the Philippines ranked third in the list of most dangerous countries in for environmental defenders, with 29 documented killings in 2020.

In Asia, it remained the worst place for protectors of nature for eight years in a row.

Global Witness said that opposition to destructive mining, logging and dam projects in the country is “often met with violent crackdowns from the police and military.”

The UK-based organization also mentioned the killing of nine indigenous Tumandok leaders during combined police and military operations on Panay island late last year.

The community opposed the construction of Jalaur mega-dam project, which is feared to submerge their ancestral lands. The government tagged the leaders as supporters and members of the communist rebel group, an allegation denied by human rights groups.

Global Witness also said that the Duterte administration used the COVID-19 pandemic to further the crackdown on dissent and fasttrack the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which could aggravate the attacks experienced by Filipino environmentalists.

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