Philippines a dangerous country for green activists

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/philippines-a-dangerous-country-for-green-activists

7 December 2017

EL NIDO – Environmental activists are being killed in record numbers
around the world, with the corruption-plagued Philippines one of the
most dangerous countries, according to watchdog Global Witness.

At least 200 community activists, non-governmental organisation workers
and other civilians at the front line of protecting the environment were
reported murdered worldwide last year, the highest on record, the group
said.

In the Philippines, an environmental activist was recorded to have been
killed at a rate of every 12 days last year, with only Brazil and
Colombia having more murders recorded.

As in other hot-spot nations, the deaths in the Philippines are rising
as communities stand up against corrupt politicians and businessmen
intent on securing natural resources that are becoming increasingly scarce.

“Voracious industries such as mining, agribusiness and logging are
trampling over people’s rights to take part in decisions that affect
their land and environment,” Mr Billy Kyte, Global Witness environmental
and land defenders campaign leader, said.

“Forced into activism, many of these marginalised communities then
receive threats and attacks for defending their rights. The government
does little to stop the ensuing violence and rarely holds anyone to
account for the killings,” Mr Kyte added.

DISREGARD FOR RIGHTS

Voracious industries such as mining, agribusiness and logging are
trampling over people’s rights to take part in decisions that affect
their land and environment.

Father-of-five Ruben Arzaga was one of the most recent land defenders
murdered in the Philippines when he was shot in the head in September as
he tried to approach illegal loggers in Palawan island, which is a
popular tourist destination.

Mr Arzaga was an elected village captain in Palawan’s tourist town of El
Nido and had been trying to confiscate illegally cut timber as part of a
personal crusade to stop rampant deforestation.

“If this illegal activity is not stopped, I think before my youngest
daughter becomes a young adult and has a family of her own, all the big
trees here will be gone,” Mr Arzaga, 49, had said in February.

Police said Mr Arzaga, who was leading a small group of local officials,
was ambushed at the logging site in September. A pair of brothers from
Mr Arzaga’s local community have been charged with his murder.

Mr Arzaga belonged to the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI), a non-profit
group made up of so-called para-enforcers that uses a citizen’s arrest
law to confiscate equipment that is being used to destroy the island’s
environment.

Mr Arzaga was the 12th member of the group murdered since 2001.