Malacañang on Saturday downplayed a recent report which listed the Philippines as third among the deadliest countries for environmental activists.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government does not condone violence committed against environment defenders in the country.
“The Philippines has been declared as among the deadliest countries in the world for environmental defenders for four straight years. Mining-related killings accounted for the plurality of these cases, with indigenous Lumad people as among the hardest hit, according to the report,” Abella said.
“We do not condone such violence and intimidation,” the Palace official said.
Abella was citing a report by London-based non-government organization Global Witness entitled “Defenders of the Earth”, which was released on Thursday.
The group branded 2016 as the “deadliest year on record” for environmental activists, with killings that year both “growing and spreading” worldwide. It cites that 200 environmental activists were murdered in 24 countries, higher than the 185 slain in 16 countries in 2015.
The Philippines was ranked third among the deadliest countries for environmental activists with at least 28 murders recorded in 2016.
“The Philippines is consistently one of the deadliest places to defend the environment, with 28 killings in 2016; most linked to struggles against mining,” the watchdog group said.
The group underlined, “A voracious mining industry makes the Philippines stand out for killings in Asia.”
Abella, however, said concerned government agencies are ensuring that environmental activists, including the indigenous Lumad of Mindanao, are protected.
“Government has thus established the Indigenous Peoples Inter-Agency Task Force composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources , its corporate arm, the Natural Resources Development Corp. and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to ensure that indigenous peoples are not subjected to undue pressure and influence from unscrupulous businessmen intending to extract natural resources from their ancestral lands,” Abella said.