PH 2nd deadliest for environmental activists

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THE Philippines, besides being one of the most dangerous places for journalists, is also the second deadliest country for environmentalists, with the recorded deaths of 33 people who defended their lands in 2015.

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According to a report by Global Witness entitled On Dangerous Ground, the Philippines landed next to Brazil where 50 environmental activists were killed also last year.

Both countries have been tagged the “deadliest” for people defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries.

The group reported that three environmental activists were killed per week last year totaling 185 for the entire year.

Global Witness surmised that the true numbers could be much higher, owing to limitations on information access among the countries surveyed. It said the number of deaths rose 59 percent from 2014.

Trailing Brazil and the Philippines are Colombia where 26 persons were killed; Peru, 12; Nicaragua, 12; and Democratic Republic of Congo, 11. Most of the deaths were related to mining (42 deaths), agribusiness (20), logging (15) and hydropower (15).

“As demand for products like minerals, timber and palm oil continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are seizing land in defiance of the people who live on it,” said Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte.

“Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers. For every killing we document, many others go unreported. Governments must urgently intervene to stop this spiraling violence,” he pointed out.

On Dangerous Ground sheds light on the particular vulnerability of indigenous people, whose weak land rights and geographic isolation make them frequent targets of land and resource grabbing.

In 2015, almost 40 percent of victims were from indigenous groups.

The group cited the case of the father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos who were publicly executed for defending their ancestral land against mining in an attack that drove 3,000 indigenous lumad people from their homes in Mindanao.

The lumad domain is rich in coal, nickel and gold, and is one of the most dangerous in the world for land and environmental activists, owing to 25 deaths in 2015 alone.

“We get threatened, vilified and killed for standing up to the mining companies on our land and the paramilitaries that protect them,” Campos said.

“My father, grandfather and school teacher were just three of countless victims. We know the murderers–they are still walking free in our community. We are dying and our government does nothing to help us,” she added.

Global Witness has called on governments in affected countries to increase protection for land and environmental activists at risk of violence, intimidation or threats, investigate crimes, including their corporate and political masterminds as well as the triggermen, and bring perpetrators to justice, support activists’ right to say no to projects on their land, and ensure that companies are proactively seeking their consent and resolve the underlying causes of violence by formally recognizing communities’ rights to their land, and tackling the corruption and illegalities that blight natural resource sectors.

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