Philippines is the deadliest country for environment activists, report says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 30) — The Philippines had the highest number of land and environmental defenders killed in 2018, an international environmental watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

The annual report of Global Witness found that out of 164 land and environmental activists killed worldwide, 30 were slain in the Philippines. Fifteen of those killings in the country were linked to agribusiness, according to the report entitled “Enemies of the State.”

Though the Philippines topped the 2018 list, the death toll reflects a 37.5 percent drop from 2017, the report said.

Brazil, which used to lead the list, fell to second place due to drops in homicide rates in the South American nation.

Global Witness, which tracks corruption, human rights and environmental abuses, defined land or environmental defenders as "people taking peaceful action to protect land or environmental rights, whether in their own personal capacity or professionally."

The October 2018 massacre of nine sugarcane farmers in Negros due to a dispute were among the deaths in the Philippines included in the report .

“Under the current regime of President Rodrigo Duterte, the situation certainly isn’t improving,” it said.

The group said Mindanao has become a “hotspot for murders” of land and environmental activities, accounting for a third of those killed in 2018.

Indigenous peoples in the country were also being targeted amid their confrontations with land developers.

“This is exacerbated by the use of the legal system to criminalise those who speak out,” the report stated.

Global Witness said the spate of killings in the Philippines could no longer be ignored.

“The Philippines government must act to stop businesses and private actors from grabbing ancestral lands from its people, and from using violence and threats to silence those who object,” the report read.