26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 356 2166 E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net Website: www.kalikasan.net

30 April 2018

Slain Cagayan priest was vocal mining critic – Kalikasan

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said Fr. Mark Ventura, a priest from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tuguegarao who was was assassinated by a riding-in-tandem as he was blessing children after mass in the town of Gattaran, Cagayan province, was a staunch oppositionist to mining projects.

“We condemn the murder of Fr. Mark Ventura, who was known for his advocacy against destructive mining and the rights of indigenous people in Cagayan Valley. He served under Archbishop Sergio Utleg, a recent Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan awardee who has also been recently subjected to vilification and harassment from the military for his advocacy. Big business and their interests could well be behind his killing,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Cagayan’s landscapes are known to be rich in magnetite black sand, nickel, gold, and chromite. The province has at least 6 approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) and at least 14 pending MPSA applications. Fr. Ventura was among those who opposed black sand mining in the northern coasts of Cagayan which posed a threat to the livelihood of the people living there and a threat to coastal ecosystems.

“Fr. Mark is the 55th environmental defender murdered under the Duterte regime based on our monitoring. Not a single one of these cases have been sufficiently acted upon by the president. His vitriol against human rights and his coddling of big mining, plantation, and other extractive and destructive interests are emboldening perpetrators of violence against environmental defenders and other activists,” said Dulce.

The environment group noted that the systematic killing of environmental activists have been linked last year to the Duterte government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, which crescendoed into a crackdown on activists including the terror-listing of more than 600 names that included mass activists, of which at least 46 are environmental defenders.

“We join the grieving family, friends, and colleagues of Fr. Mark Ventura in demanding justice for the slain priest. We demand the Duterte regime to put a stop to its bloody counter insurgency crackdown against its critics and dissenters. Duterte, who has nothing but foul words for church workers and other environment and rights defenders, should be held accountable for promoting a climate of impunity against democratic forces,” ended Dulce.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 356 21 66 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net