Green activist killings worry Philippine church leaders

Bishops urge govt action after spate of killings in January

Mark Saludes in Manila and Jefry Tupas in Davao City, Philippines

2 February 2016

Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines have condemned a spate of
killings targeting environmental activists in recent weeks, saying the
government is not doing anything to prevent them or bring the killers to

“We must stop this impunity,” said Father Edwin Gariquez, executive
secretary of the social action, justice and peace secretariat of the
bishops’ conference.

“We strongly condemn these acts and we really want the government to
resolve this as soon as possible,” Father Gariquez told

He was speaking on Feb. 2 following the death of an anti-mining
activist, who was shot in the town of Pantukan in Mindanao’s Compostela
Valley province last week.

Teresita Navacilla, 60, convener of the Save Pantukan Movement, a group
of artisanal miners opposing large-scale mining corporations in
Mindanao, died Jan. 30, three days after the shooting.

“We do not know who really is to blame,” said Navacilla’s daughter who
asked not to be named for security reasons.

“We are scared because the killers might target us next,” she told

Navacilla was the fourth person killed in southern Mindanao in January.

In Palawan province in the central Philippines, Jean Marc Messina, a
French national known for environmental activism, was found shot dead
with his wife and son on Jan. 28.

The environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
said if Messina’s death was related to his advocacy, he would be the
fifth environmental activist murdered in Palawan since 2005.

Human rights group Karapatan said Navacilla’s murder was linked to her
opposition to large-scale mining companies in the province.

“The attack on Navacilla could happen to other organizations and
individuals strongly against environmental plunder and destruction,”
Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan’s secretary-general in the region said.

During the International Eucharistic Congress last week, Archbishop Jose
Palma of Cebu told that to fight the killings of activists,
“people of goodwill,” including nongovernmental organizations should
unite to address the issue of injustice.

“I hope that somehow, we would have a listening ear. I think more
sincere coordinated efforts should be made,” the prelate said.

A 2015 report by London-based Global Witness said almost a third of 25
environmental activist killings related to mining projects in 2014
happened in the Philippines.

“This continues a pattern of Philippines defenders being targeted for
their opposition to the country’s mining industry — a sector that
operates with very little transparency and regularly fails to consult
local communities,” the report said.