WE call on the people to join in expressing outrage over the murder of environmental protection advocates by goons of businessmen and their government-official allies.
The success and profitability of some businesses are based on activities that harm the environment. This is why some of them have resorted to murdering the objects of their hatred: pro-nature militants whose aim, ultimately, is to ban occupations and industries that damage the seas, rivers, forests and the environment.
The latest such murder happened in Vigan, the capital of Ilocos Sur.
Mario Contaoi, educator and former environmental protection broadcaster, was shot dead by an unknown assailant last Saturday, January 7. He was traveling along the national highway on his motorcycle when gunned down.
Contaoi was an instructor who taught at the University of Northern Philippines in Vigan and a former commentator at dzNS Radyo Totoo station. He tackled environmental issues and, like most bold commentators, he saw an unhealthy link between the rapists of nature and the military. He spoke against the placement of a heavy military presence – which leftwingers refer to as the militarization of the areas—in the places where environmentally destructive projects are located.
The Kalikasan People’s Network rightly and expectedly spoke up, “We condemn the senseless killing of Mario Contaoi, who is the eighth environmental advocate who has been killed under the Duterte administration. There is a clearly persisting impunity facing environmental defenders and other activists. An independent and impartial investigation should immediately be conducted on the murder of Contaoi,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
According to Sherwin de Vera, coordinator of Kalikasan PNE’s regional network named DEFEND Ilocos, “while the assailant’s motive(s) remains unclear, the authorities must not discount his previous stint as radio commentator and his sharp commentaries on environmental issues as possible reasons for his murder.”
There are now at least 105 cases of environment-related killings recorded by Kalikasan PNE since 2001. On average, killings under the previous Arroyo administration reached almost four cases per year, while the Aquino administration averaged almost 10 killings per year. In the first six months of the Duterte administration, there are already seven cases indicating almost triple the rate under Arroyo.
Kalikasan PNE noted that in a dialogue between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and environmental and indigenous people’s leaders last October 2016, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez declared that she would support an investigation of environment-related killings.
Calling on the government to do its job, Fulce said: “We hope Secretary Lopez would help push the Duterte administration to seriously probe the unabated killings of environmental advocates. Ensuring the rights of environmental defenders and grassroots communities should be an integral component of President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to stop environmentally destructive projects. Destructive and pollutive companies will be emboldened to be even more aggressive if its opponents continue to be subjected to fascist attacks.”
We in The Times deeply mourn the murder of the 8 heroes of environmental protectionism who have been killed in just 100-plus days of the DU30 administration,
The President must seriously fulfill his promise to go after the killers.