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If you love the environment you better watch your back

DAVAO (UCAN): The Church is warning environmental advocates to watch their backs, as they have again become the target of the mining company goons in recent weeks. Father Edwin Gariquez said on February 2 that the worst of it is that the government is not doing anything to prevent the murders or bring those responsible to justice.

“We must stop this impunity,” the secretary of the Social Action, Justice and Peace Commission said. “We strongly condemn these acts and we really want the government to resolve this as soon as possible.”

Father Gariquez was speaking following the death on January 30 of 60-year-old Teresita Navacilla, an anti-mining advocate, three days after she was shot in the town of Pantukan in Mindanao’s Compostela Valley province on January 27.

Navacilla was the convener of the Save Pantukan Movement, a group of artisanal miners opposed to large-scale mining corporations in Mindanao .

“We do not know who really is to blame,” Navacilla’s daughter, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said. “We are scared because the killers might target us next.”

Navacilla was the fourth person to be murdered in southern Mindanao in January.

In Palawan province in the central Philippines, Jean Marc Messina, a French national known for his environmental advocacy, was found shot dead along with his wife and son on January 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 advocate to be murdered in Palawan since 2005.

The human rights group, Karapatan, claims that Navacilla’s murder was linked to her opposition to large-scale mining companies in the province. “The attack on Navacilla could happen to other organisations and individuals strongly against environmental plunder and destruction,” Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan secretary-general in the region, said.

During the International Eucharistic Congress in late January, Archbishop José Palma said that to fight the killings of advocates, people of goodwill, including non-governmental organisations, must unite to address the issue of injustice.

“I hope that somehow, we will get a listening ear. I think more sincere coordinated efforts should be made,” the bishop said.

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


“This continues a pattern of Philippine 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 says.

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