MANILA (UCAN): The killings of environmental defenders in the Philippines has resulted in ecological damage that will cost about 1.04 trillion pesos ($158 billion) a year, according to a report from Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights at the end of January.
The report noted that crackdowns against environment activists in recent years has resulted in “extensive ecological risks.”
It added that at least 19,498 environmental defenders were subjected to “a wide range of human rights abuses” in the Philippines during the administration of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte.
“This crackdown threatens to open up 6.2 million hectares of critical landscapes and seascapes under the protection of defenders from extractive and destructive interests,” Clemente Bautista Jr., international network coordinator of Kalikasan, said.
According to the report, a rough estimate of the total damage would amount be equivalent to 28 per cent of the country’s national budget in 2019.
Among the areas listed as facing threats are the Pantaron Mountain Range in Mindanao and the protected areas of El Nido-Taytay and Victoria-Anepahan on the island of Palawan.
The report recorded 19,178 people affected by forced evacuation spurred by military operations in resource conflict areas.
At least 106 people were reported to have been illegally arrested and 46 others included in terror listings from 1 July 2016, to 31 December 2019.
The sharper end of the violations recorded were 11 victims of enforced disappearance and 157 victims of extrajudicial killings.
The pro-environment group noted that rights abuses were driven by economic policies on mining, agribusiness, forestry and other industries.
It added that internal security measures have functioned as an “investment guarantee” for various big business projects.
Kalikasan called on the United Nations to consider initiating a fact-finding mission to look into the situation in conflict areas and formulate resolutions to alleviate the “national human rights crisis.”
In December, the organisation reported that 46 environmental defenders in the Philippines were killed in 2019. The group documented 30 deaths in 2018.
The Philippines was the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land defenders in 2018, according to a report published by international rights watchdog, Global Witness, in July 2019.