PH deadliest country in Asia for environment defenders – watchdog
MANILA, Philippines — For the eighth consecutive year, the Philippines remains the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders, with escalating attacks against indigenous peoples protecting their lands, according to the latest annual report of Global Witness, a conflict and corruption watchdog.
The report, which documents such attacks since 2012, also saw the Philippines slip to the third spot in the most dangerous countries for defenders in the world, a list that it has topped in 2018.
The London-based watchdog defines land and environmental defenders as those who take a stand and peaceful action against “unjust, discriminatory, corrupt or damaging exploitation” of the environment and natural resources.
Released on Monday, their latest report revealed 2020 as the most dangerous year for defenders, with 227 murders, or an average of more than four people killed every week.
Global Witness documented 29 killings in the Philippines last year. Colombia and Mexico, which were ranked the deadliest countries for environmental defenders, had 65 and 30 recorded murders, respectively.
“In the Philippines, opposition to damaging industries is often met with violent crackdowns from the police and military,” the report said. “In our data, over half of the lethal attacks were directly linked to defenders’ opposition to mining, logging and dam projects.”
Global Witness said President Duterte’s years in office have been marked by a “dramatic increase” in violence against environmental defenders.
“From his election in 2016 until the end of 2020, 166 land and environment defenders have been killed—over double the number killed under the previous administration,” it said.
The year 2020 also saw a “disproportionate” number of attacks against indigenous peoples.
The report highlighted the Tumandok massacre in December last year as the “most shocking” attack against indigenous peoples. Nine members of the indigenous Tumandok in Panay island were killed in simultaneous police operations on Dec. 30, while 17 others were arrested.
The tribe leaders were reportedly opposing a mega dam project on the Jalaur river. The government tagged them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, an allegation denied by human rights groups.
Global Witness said the Duterte government used the COVID-19 pandemic to further accelerate its attacks and crack down on dissent, taking advantage of the lockdowns to push through with the Anti-Terrorism Law that further endangers environmental defenders.
“This is a crisis against humanity,” it said.
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