Calling out President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to address the environmental problems of the country under four years of his administration, environmental and climate activists from 350.org, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) joined thousands of protesters on the annual State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27, at University of the Philippines Diliman.
“We find the Philippine environment in a worsened state after four years of the Duterte administration. The Philippines has become more vulnerable to climate disasters, with annual damages costing from USD2.8 billion to 3.1 billion. We consistently ranked third globallu in air pollution deaths. We estimate that we have lost P990.3 billion worth of our sovereign natural resources to foreign economies and corporations,” said Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The groups said the Philippines became the world’s deadliest country for land and environmental defenders for the first time under Duterte, in last year’s global report on land and environment defender killings by international investigative NGO Global Witness. According to monitoring by Kalikasan PNE, 157 defenders were murdered in the first three years of Pres. Duterte.
“The big oligarchs and corporations of mining, dam, coal, reclamation are being encouraged by Pres. Duterte in response to the COVID-19 crisis instead of pushing for green, climate-just recovery solutions to the pandemic crisis. Worse, they’re using the military like their own private army to push their destructive projects,” says Mitzi Jonelle Tan, lead convener of YACAP.
The groups hit the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Law, which legal luminaries have described as ‘worse than martial law’, as a threat that will further inflame an already atrocious human rights situation faced by Filipino environmental defenders.
Chuck Baclagon, coordinator for climate group 350.org Pilipinas, adds: “It is unfortunate that the regime has opted to use the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to trample on human rights, civil liberties, and democracy. We are joining today’s mobilization because we believe that defending people and our planet is not a crime. Advocates should be able to do their work without fear of persecution.”
As part of the thousands who protested, the environmental groups expressed their defiance against anti-people and anti-environment policies through an Art Attack. Several umbrellas were brought together to form the sky, the land, and the sea, with the call “WE RESIST AS ONE PLANET” written on them, a reminder to the government to heed the call of the people to protect our environment.
“Symbols, art and creative actions, help visualize our resistance, such ways of communicating often speak more directly to our hearts, and provide a beautiful reminder of what we strive to protect,” said John Erhard Guarin, visual artist and volunteer for 350.org Pilipinas, who led the production of the art attack.
“We will fight against this militarization and repression of Duterte’s government, and we will fight against this terror law. We will not let the current administration prosecute and target the defenders of the environment, the climate, and of the next generations,” Tan ended