CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Eco-danger

MANILA (UCAN): If people could be removed from The Philippines its natural environment would become a much more friendly place, as for several years now it has been the deadliest country in Asia and one of the most dangerous in the world for those who work to defend the land against human destruction.
 
A report titled Defenders of the Earth, released on July 14 by the London-based Global Witness, notes that at least 28 pro-environment advocates were killed in The Philippines during 2016.
 
Leon Dulce, the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment in Manila, is prophesying that the trend will worsen during this year.
 
Dulce notes that despite the change in government last year there has been no fundamental change in environmental policies.
 
Kalikasan, the local partner of Global Witness in Manila, has monitored 10 cases of environment-related killings during the first half of this year.
 
The report declares 2016 as the deadliest year for the environment and land defenders on record, with at least 200 people killed every week across the globe.
 
Mining is far and away the most dangerous field, with at least 33 murders linked to the sector recorded in the report.
 
Killings linked to logging companies increased from 15 to 23 in one year, while there were 23 connected to agribusiness projects.
 
Almost 40 per cent of those who died are tribal people, with police and soldiers being the main suspects in at least 43 of the murders.
 
The Philippines has been among countries with the highest number of killings since 2013, when Global Witness first launched its international studies.
 
It has recorded a total of 144 killings in the country since 2002.
 
Kalikasan, a local Philippine group that seeks to protect the precious and delicate ecological balance in the Pearl of the Orient Seas, notes an increase in the impunity level of those who attack eco-defenders since the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power with a big promise to protect the environment.
 
From June 2016 to the present, it has monitored at least 17 environment-related killings.
 
“Mining-related killings accounted for 47 per cent of the cases we monitored during the first year of the Duterte administration,” Dulce said.
 
The military are being accused of involvement in 41 per cent of these cases and 65 per cent happened in the southern region of Mindanao.
 
“Military, paramilitary and police forces should immediately be pulled out of rural communities,” Dulce stressed.
 
He said that the continuing policies of the government of promoting environmentally destructive projects have brought about the increasing human rights violations against environmental defenders.

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