By Chito Chavez
Militant ecological group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) has maintained that farmer killings remain the biggest blow to the country’s environmental protection efforts.
On Monday, the group joined other peasant farmer movements in the October Peasant Month culminating protest mobilization at Mendiola to condemn the continuing spate of killings and other attacks against farmers and other land defenders.
“Small farmers manage 80 percent of agricultural lands globally and thus are key in maintaining sustainable agriculture and providing food security for the Filipino population. Despite this, small farmers and indigenous people comprise an alarming 81% of murdered land and environmental defenders under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte,” said Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“This shows that the unabated killings of farmers are the single biggest blow to the country’s environmental protection efforts. Protecting the lives and rights of farmers will allow them to continue their innate role of protecting watersheds and agricultural lands,” he added.
According to Kalikasan, some 225 land and environmental defenders have been killed from 2001 to 2018.
The group noted “these martyred defenders were working on the protection of conservation areas, mineralized lands, agricultural lands, and other environmentally critical landscapes and seascapes amounting to 2,670,850 hectares’’.
Kalikasan noted a major driver of land and environmental defender killings under the Duterte administration is the aggressive expansion of plantations and other agribusiness venture arrangements, accounting for 50 percent of the killings under his term.
It stressed that agribusiness plantations aim to cover 1.6 million hectares of fertile lands, which are mostly in ancestral domains or are up for agrarian reform land distribution.
The group disclosed that state security forces figured in 65 percent of land and environmental defender killings in the same time period.
Under Duterte, this rate has increased to 69 percent with peasant farmer groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a member organization of Kalikasan being pointed to as the culprit of the various counter-insurgency policies such as the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Memorandum Order 32, and Executive Order 70 pouring military troops into rural areas operating with brazen impunity.
“Duterte’s counter-insurgency programs must immediately be suspended as it has only served as an investment guarantee for big mines, plantations, and other big businesses. Areas, where human rights atrocities have been perpetrated against farmers and other land defenders, should be declared as ‘no go’ zones for extractive and destructive projects,” Dulce concluded.