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At least 29 Filipino nature defenders slain in 2020–Global Witness report

Filipinos opposing mining, illegal logging, and dam projects were among those killed defending forests last year, making the country one of the world’s most dangerous places for environmentalists in 2020.

In it’s report titled Last Line of Defense, United Kingdom-based Global Witness said 29 Filipinos died defending forests. This is the third highest death recorded globally.

The data showed that the country, which recorded the highest number of deaths, was Colombia, with 65 deaths followed by Mexico with 30.

“In the Philippines, opposition to damaging industries is often met with violent crackdowns from the police and military. In our data over half of the lethal attacks were directly linked to defenders’ opposition to mining, logging, and dam projects,” the report stated.

The report noted that the logging sector was linked to the most murders totaling 23 cases. These were recorded in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines.

Other deaths were related to attacks against indigenous peoples (IP) accounting for over a third of all fatal attacks. These were documented in Mexico, Central and South America and the Philippines.

Relatedly, the report noted that indigenous peoples were the targets of 5 to 7 mass killings in 2020 and the deadliest was recorded in the Philippines.

“In the most shocking of these, nine Tumandok indigenous people were killed and a further 17 arrested in raids by the military and police on the 30th of December on the island of Panay in the Philippines. Numerous reports state that these communities were targeted for their opposition to a mega-dam project on the Jalaur River,” the report stated.

Apart from environmentalists and IPs, the report noted that 28 of the individuals were state officials or park rangers.

These attacks, the report noted, were documented in Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Uganda.

Based on the report, those killed in the Philippines included Artilito Katipunan; Bae Merlin Ansabu Celis; Eliseo Gayas Jr.; Emerito Pinza; Fernando Velarde; Garson Catamin; Glenn Bunda; Harold Tablazon; Jay-Ar Mercado; Jennifer Tonag; and Jessie Golondrina.

The list included Jobert Bercasio; John Farochilin; Jomar Vidal; Jory Parquia; Lorenzo Paña; Louie Tagapia; Mario Aguirre; Marlos Maldos; Maurito Diaz; Nora Apique; Pablo Mâtinons Jr.; Randy Echanis; Reynaldo Katipunan; Rolando Diaz; Romy Candor; Ronnie Villamore; Roy Giganto; and Zara Alvarez.

“President Duterte’s years in office have been marked by a dramatic increase in violence against defenders. From his election in 2016 until the end of 2020, 166 land and environment defenders have been killed —a shocking increase for a country which was already a dangerous place to stand up for the environment,” Global Witness said.

The report recommended that governments should ensure national policies protect land and environmental defenders and scrap legislation used to criminalize them.

Governments should also require companies to conduct human rights and environment due diligence in their global operations, and investigate and prosecute all actors involved in violence and other threats against defenders.

Global Witness also said companies and investors must publish and implement effective due diligence systems to identify and prevent human rights and environmental harms throughout their supply chains and operations.

The organization said companies should also adopt and implement a zero-tolerance stance on reprisals and attacks on land and environmental defenders and provide effective remedy when adverse human rights and environmental impacts and harms occur.

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