Philippines deadliest country for environmental defenders

24 September 2019

A new report by Global Witness shows that president Duterte of the Philippines has not kept his promises to safeguard the environment and vulnerable communities in his country. Businesses and investors operating in the country- including fruit company Del Monte, continue to operate, despite allegations of human rights violations against defenders.

The Philippines is the world’s deadliest country for environmental- and human rights defenders. Since 2016, over 100 people were killed for protecting their environment against illegal logging, mining and industrial agriculture. Offenders are rarely found or prosecuted.

Global Witness now comes with evidence that big multinational companies and investors continue to operate, despite allegations that business projects they are backing are linked to human rights violations and threats against defenders.

Indigenous land grabbed for fruit plantations

According to Global Witness, agribusiness companies Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines are linked to sometimes fatal attacks against Filipino citizens. Del Monte grows its pineapples on land that was grabbed from indigenous peoples. Indigenous leader Renato Anglao, who protested this land grabbing, was fatally shot. This revelation shows that this horrible violence against defenders is closer than we think, as Del Monte and Dole’s canned fruit is sold in supermarkets across Europe.

Tourism fuels illegal logging

Global witness also describes how the tourism boom in Palawan- a location loved by many Instagram influencers- is fuelling illegal logging and, thereby, violence against land and environmental defenders.  Ruben Arzaga, village head and member of a local environmental group, was killed when apprehending illegal loggers. The surge in illegal logging is mainly caused by the growing demand for hotels on the island. Other activists were subjected to threats made by a local governor and businessman.

IUCN NL in the Philippines

Together with local partner organizations, IUCN NL works to protect land and environmental defenders on multiple levels. We have set up an emergency fund to safeguard defenders that are in acute danger and argue for stricter mining laws. Mining poses an important threat to the land and livelihoods of indigenous communities, a phenomenon that is also described in the Global Witness report.

Government and companies should take responsibility

Global Witness calls for the Filipino government, companies and investors to take their responsibility for the many misconducts in the country. “They need to take immediate action to tackle the root causes of these attacks and support defenders, “says Ben Leather of Global Witness. But consumers can also take action to support Filipino land and environmental defenders, by insisting that the fruit you buy or the hotel they stay in isn’t associated with conflict and bloodshed.

 

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