Editorial: Land, forests, and greed-A A +A
Friday, June 22, 2012
THERE is a disturbing survey conducted worldwide where the Philippines (again) is among the many countries where many killings have occurred. This is about killings over land and forests.
"A Hidden Crisis? Increase in killings as tensions rise over land and forests" report by Global Witness ranks the Philippines fourth in reported killings between 2002 to 2011. Brazil has 365, Peru has 123, Columbia has 70, and Philippines has 50. Following the Philippines is Thailand with 20. Twenty-two other countries have ten and below reported killings for the same period. The report was released in time for the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
"Reports of killings carried out by men in uniforms, acting on behalf of private sector interests and/or governments, featured more commonly in Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Indonesia, Peru and the Philippines. It is not possible to put a definitive figure on how many cases involve such actors, because eye witness accounts and monitoring organizations do not (sometimes due to fear of further attack) go into this level of detail," the report reads.
As described in its website, "Global Witness investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource related conflict and corruption, and associated environmental and human rights abuses."
The survey result released just last June 19 shows that 711 persons - activists, journalists, and community members defending rights to land and forests -- appear to have been killed over the period, which is roughly more than one a week.
"Most commonly, those killed were protesting or making grievances against mining operations, agribusiness, logging operations, tree plantations, hydropower dams, urban development and poaching," the report said.
Those killed were protesting:
• loss of livelihoods due to forced eviction from homes and land holdings, sometimes at gun point, to make way for any of the above developments;
• zero or insufficient compensation for land requisitioned;
• loss of forests and/or loss of food sources, timber and other resources normally used by local inhabitants as a result of infrastructure (for example roads);
• illegal logging and poaching;
• deterioration in quality and quantity of natural water sources, for example due to mining;
• zero or insufficient employment opportunities which may accompany new development;
• pollution, including high levels of dust from roads or ranching.
In releasing the report, Global Witness wanted to underline a hidden crisis in environmental protection, a culture of impunity that does not hesitate to silence forever those who voice out grievances and stand up for their rights. It also points to the reality that global consumption is increasing ergo battle for access to land and resources will intensify further. What is happening in our backyard, over there in Tampakan where a giant mining company is staking claims over hectares upon hectares of land is but a clear example of this.
That there appears to be government participation in the silencing of dissent is a reality that we all must abhor and for which we should castigate government. That there has been no conviction of the killers makes a fertile ground for this kind of impunity to prosper. The sadder part of this report is that we cannot deny that what has been reported is happening.
Thus, we share Global Witness' contention that economic progress must not be pursued at the expense of the rights of communities, activists or in detriment to the environment.
"Governments must ensure that citizens with concerns over how land and forest are managed can speak out without fear of persecution and that investment projects and land and forest deals are open and fair. This means seeking free, prior and informed consent from affected communities before deals are approved," an article about the report paraphrased the recommendations adding that justice must be delivered to those killed.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 23, 2012.