Indiscriminate bombing and shelling do not only kill, maim, destroy property, and disrupt the lives of communities — these also cause widespread ecological destruction, green groups point out.
Green groups from different regions in the country, who are also members of the Environmental Defenders Congress (EDC), revealed the ‘immense scale’ of continued attacks against environmental activists in 2022. They also called for an impartial probe into the indiscriminate bombings and shellings of rural communities in recent months.
“There is a need to determine the scale of the environmental and human rights impacts of these indiscriminate bombing, shelling and other military offensives,” said Mark Fernando, Environmental Defenders campaigner for Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), during “Panalipod,” a two-day congress organized by the EDC.
The groups noted that the attacks on environmental defenders across the country heightened in 2022. They said the military and police worked together with various government agencies to ‘widen the array of tactics,’ which they used to ‘sow fear, intrigue, disunity and confusion to silence communities resisting the plunder of their local environments.’
“We documented at least 10 killings of land and environmental activists this year,” reported Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE. “While this presents a welcome drop in the number of killings, this is on top of hundreds of other human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, small farmers, fisherfolk, and other environmental stewards.”
The groups decried what they called a “chilling effect” brought about by these attacks, discouraging other activists from taking action against environmentally destructive projects and policies.
According to Kalikasan PNE, state agents have ramped up and combined tactics to harass rights defenders, including:
- Arresting and jailing environmental defenders and land rights activists on trumped-up criminal charges
- Militarization of rural communities
- Death threats against environmental activists
- Indiscriminate bombing, shelling and strafing
“The effect of all of these, combined, has translated into an all-out war against our environment defenders,” said Bonifacio. “A war on our defenders is a war on our planet,” he said.
For 2022, Kalikasan PNE documented the aerial strafing and bombing of 14 communities in all three main islands of the Philippines, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of families.
In one case, on April 15, 2022, soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion shelled the mountainous Sitio Palo 12, Barangay Poblacion 12, Santiago, Agusan del Norte six times, forcing the residents of surrounding sitios to abandon their small-scale mining activities there.
A mineral vein of nickel snakes its way across Santiago and the neighboring town of Tubay, where the nickel mine of the disreputable San Roque Metals Inc. is located.
“As early as 2015, Kalikasan had already identified that militarization and arbitrary bombings were part of the modus operandi used by the state to ‘clear out’ areas for extractive industries,” said Bonifacio. “In recent months, it seems like this is happening once again.”
The other communities that were bombed and strafed were also similarly found in places where resistance to destructive projects was strong or growing, or where rich pools of natural resources were found and are being eyed by big business interests.
Impartial probes, protective laws
Kalikasan PNE lambasted the Marcos Jr. administration for failing even to recognize the ‘dire’ situation of environmental activists in the country. Alongside the other groups in the EDC, they called for impartial investigations into the continued attacks, including the indiscriminate military operations affecting entire communities.
The group also pushed for the passage of laws to safeguard the rights of environmental and human rights defenders.
“Kalikasan PNE believes that we need laws that focus on safeguarding the rights of environmental and human rights defenders,” Bonifacio concluded. “This includes the Environmental Defense Bill (House Bill 8170) and the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill (Senate Bill 1699), both of which should be fast-tracked in this time of heightened attacks.”#
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of their organization nor of the CPDG.