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Surface Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro! Protect Filipino Environmental Defenders Who Preserve Our Planet!


Surface Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro!

Protect Filipino Environmental Defenders Who Preserve Our Planet!

We, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the Environmental Defenders Congress, urgently call for the immediate surfacing of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, environmental defenders who have gone missing while working with the fishing communities in Orion, Bataan, who are steadfastly opposed to environmentally destructive reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

In the midst of a climate and ecological crisis that threatens the very fabric of our planet, environmental defenders in the Philippines, like Jhed and Jonila, find themselves on the frontlines of an escalating battle for the very survival of our ecosystems and Filipino communities that depend on these.

These courageous Filipinos have taken it upon themselves to protect the country’s precious natural resources from destructive projects such as coal and fossil fuel plants, large dams that lead to massive deforestation — and, in the case of Jhed and Jonila, reclamation projects that irreparably harm coastal and marine ecosystems.

However, their dedication to safeguarding the environment has come at a steep price.

A playbook of attacks has been systematically deployed against these defenders, beginning with vilification and red-tagging, which falsely portrays them as enemies of the state. Often, this is swiftly followed by the criminalization of their work, resulting in their arrest and detention on trumped-up charges. The weaponization of the law is also a common tactic, with authorities misusing existing laws or enacting draconian laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, to stifle dissent.

Reports from the international watchdog Global Witness over the past ten years have shed light on the grim reality faced by environmental defenders across the world. These attacks are designed to silence the voices of defenders and discourage them from carrying out their vital work. Tragically, too often, these assaults culminate in violence and even killings, leaving families and communities shattered. The Philippines is the most dangerous place in Asia for environmental defenders and one of the most dangerous in the world – and, based on verifiable reports — it has been so for the past ten years at least.

The significance of environmental defenders’ work cannot be overstated. They protect Philippine forests that serve as critical carbon sinks, mitigating the impact of climate change and shielding communities from the devastating floods and superstorms brought about by environmental degradation. Their work serves as a bulwark against the expansion of ‘dirty’ coal-fired and other fossil fuel plants, which only exacerbate the climate crisis. They fight against reclamation, which harms marine environments.

Around the world, powerful oligarchs, who often own businesses involved in environmental plunder, can wield significant influence over the state. This influence has been proven to lead to state-sponsored attacks on environmental defenders who stand in the way of these vested interests. Reports from organizations like Global Witness — and even from our own monitoring work — highlight how state agents are frequently implicated in these assaults, creating a challenging environment for those protecting our planet. Kalikasan’s monitoring of our 22 networks on the ground, done since 2001, shows that more than half of the attacks against Filipino environmental defenders were carried out by state forces.

Jhed and Jonila were active in the fight against reclamation, which harms marine environments by destroying habitats like coral reefs, disrupting ecosystems, and altering water circulation, leading to coastal erosion and storm surge risks. Dumping dredged materials during reclamation can also introduce pollutants, further impacting aquatic life.

As we grapple with the urgent need to address climate change and protect our vulnerable ecosystems — on which the Filipino people depend for their livelihoods and which is the very source of our national income — the plight of these environmental defenders must not be overlooked.

We call on all Filipinos of good conscience to stand with us in solidarity with these brave women as they fight to preserve our planet for generations to come.

We call for the immediate surfacing of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro.
We call for the immediate passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act, still pending in Congress.

We demand the dismantling of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the very entity implicated in the vilification and red-tagging of environmental defenders. We call for the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which many United Nations bodies and international groups have acknowledged to be a draconian measure used only to silence activists, including the brave environment defenders whose work protects people and the planet. #