Green heroes remembered
Candles and prayers for environment martyrs
Manila – Groups in several key cities in the country offered candles and prayers yesterday to honor local environmental heroes as the International Day of Commemoration of the Heroes, Heroines and Martyrs of the Resistance against the Mining, Oil and Gas was celebrated worldwide. More than 1,000 religious, students, human rights and environmental activists gathered in Manila, Puerto Princesa, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro and offered prayers and flowers as relatives and friends of environmental heroes recalled lives and struggles of the heroes. Around 200 supporters from Manila gathered at the Pope Pius Center in UN Avenue, Manila, and set up portraits of fallen comrades as they chanted prayers and songs.
Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio was the latest in the string of environmentalist that were killed this year alone, when he was gunned down in Cotabato last month. Early this year, Dr. Gerry Ortega from Palawan was shot and killed in Puerto Princesa. Another outspoken anti-mining activist, Datu Roy Gallego, was also killed in Surigao del Sur last Oct 17, 2011. Other documented killings that are related to mining include Councilor Armin Rios Marin from Sibuyan Island who was killed by a mining security guard last 2007 right in front of a rally against mining; Gensun Agustin from Cagayan Valley, gunned down in a highway last 2009, on his way from a an anti-mining forum he organized; and Rudy Segovia, shot and killed at a barricade set-up in Zamboanga del Norte to prevent the entry of mining equipment in their ancestral domains.
Violence in mining-affected areas have escalated recently, as attacks from communist rebels triggered military actions to defend mining interests were sanctioned by the national government.
“We seek justice for these martyrs. People and the governmnet must bring their assailants to justice, for true peace to be achieved”, said Judy Pasimio from Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasa (LRC-KsK). She added that “the Philippine government must not put the interests of the mining companies over the welfare of the community and the whole nation, by serving the greed of these large mining transnational corporations”.
Meanwhile, human rights groups also urged President Aquino to recall its policy of deploying more paramilitary groups to protect large-scale mining operations against rebel attacks. In early October this year, the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) assaulted three mining firms in Claver, Surigao del Norte.
“There will be more environmental martyrs if this situation will continue because paramilitary groups in the Philippines have a long history of human rights violations against the civilian population,” Max de Mesa, chairperson of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) said in an interview. According to PAHRA, local human rights defenders documented in Surigao region, where the October attacks happened, numerous rights abuses such as harassment, torture, destruction of properties and land grabbing mostly committed by the military and civilian defense groups in connivance with mining and logging firms.
In Cebu, the City Council adopted a Special Resolution declaring Nov. 10 as a Day of Remembrance of Environmental Heroes and Martyrs. A briefing was held at the Cabrido Law Office, where the environmental martyrs were remembered and recognition to environmental groups was also held. A Paghandum or candle-lighting liturgy was held in the evening at Sto. Rosario Parish, Cebu City. The events were organized by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), SANLAKAS, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod-Cebu (KPML-Cebu), Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya-Cebu (KPD-Cebu), FDC-Cebu, CASE, TFDP-Visayas in coordination with the Cebu City’s Barangay Environmental Officers (BEO) association.
In Cagayan de Oro, a similar prayer-gathering was organized by alternative legal groups and human rights groups led by Amnesty International- Cagayan de Oro (AI-CDO), Legal rights and natural resources center (LRC) Balay alternative legal advocates for development in mindanaw (BALAOD), Ateneo de cagayan university (Xavier); Balay mindanao faoundation incorporated (BMFI), and Kaisahan tungo sa kaunlaran (KAISAHAN).
The events were part of the global solidarity actions for environmental heroes, where similar events were organized in Nigeria, Indonesia, Guatemala and Australia. Nov. 10 marks the anniversary of the murder of Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa who, together with eight other Ogoni leaders were executed on 10 November 1995 for speaking out against the impact of Shell and other oil companies in the Niger Delta. The day also saw the release of a new report by Friends of the Earth International as they renew their commitment to the struggle for justice for the communities who suffer the consequences of extractive industries. The new report is entitled ‘Memory, Truth and Justice for Heroes in the Resistance against Mining Oil and Gas’ and exposes the murders of many human rights and environmental activists all over the world for defending their rights and natural resources.
Romel de Vera, coordinator of the Resisting Mining, Oil and Gas program of Friends of the Earth International, said “We condemn the fact that many governments favor and protect the interests of extractive industry corporations instead of the right of communities to land and resources. The list of community rights defenders, environmentalists and social activists killed in the course of their struggle against mining, oil and gas continues to grow even longer. On November 10, remembrance actions are held all over the world to commemorate their heroism and celebrate their lives and struggles, as well as to condemn the culture and cycle of death forced upon us by the extractives industry.”
Romel de Vera, coordinator of the Resisting Mining, Oil and Gas program of Friends of the Earth International, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tel ( +63 917 801 7097 )
Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina, email@example.com, (+63 927 761.76.02)
Bernie Larin, PhilRights, firstname.lastname@example.org, (+63 927 424.15.51)
Gerry Arances, LRC-KsK, email@example.com, (+63 917 536.84.08)