Philippines world's second deadliest country for environmental activists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 29) — The Philippines is ranked second deadliest country in the world for people defending the environment with 43 killings in 2019, London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness said in its latest report.

The report, entitled “Defending Tomorrow: The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders,” said six of those killed were government workers, while 26 were killings related to agribusiness. Both account for the highest share globally.

As for mining, 16 killings were recorded.

The country ranked first in 2018, overtaking Brazil, with 30 deaths. The top spot for 2019 was taken by Colombia with 64 defenders killed.

The group said criminalizing activists is a major concern in the country that led to the death of these defenders.

“In the Philippines, individual activists and environmental organizations have been accused of being rebels or communist sympathizers – a practice commonly known as ‘red-tagging’.”

Global Witness also noted that almost half of the reported killings since the start of the current administration are linked to armed forces, who mostly live in resource-rich regions.

Moreover, many defenders killed in 2019 lived in Mindanao, a trend it has observed since the start of the administration, as well as in Negros, which is also considered to be a heavily-militarized region.

It noted that defenders living in both regions account for 90 percent of activists killed, while indigenous groups are also being forced to leave their land.

With this, Global Witness call for the Philippine government to ensure accountability through independent investigation of the attacks and to remove military units in indigenous land. It is also pushing for policy the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and to pass the Human Rights Defender Bill.

“Implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standard and require mandatory human rights due diligence in all mining operations, and rule on the cancellation or suspension of mining operations started in 2017 under former Secretary Gina Lopez,” the group said.

Moreover, the country should also cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council and implement the agency’s recommendations regarding human rights in the country.

Total killings for 2019 reached 212, or an average of four people killed a week. Mining was the deadliest sector with 50 people killed.