THE bullish promotion of extractive industries and environmentally unsustainable infrastructure calls for stronger action of environmental defenders and communities affected. Continuous impunity backed by policies which freely tag those who resist to be related to communist and terrorist groups makes us more vulnerable to threats, misinformation, arrests and even death.

Corporations involved are also taking advantage of this impunity especially when politicians with business and personal interests intervene. We need to re-evaluate the functions of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The long-time systemic problem among its ranks controlled by industries and powers that be within the agency must end. The involvement of politicians and their families with business interests creates a more dangerous environment to environmental defenders – that of real estate, mining, reclamation, logging and large-scale agriculture. 

Impunity continues and there is a concerted effort to undermine our work by continually branding us as bad people. We are not criminals for wanting to protect places like Sibuyan Island from mining activities and raising the view that governments should be protecting these beautiful biodiversity hotspots.

About 50 meters from our barricade camp, a Philippine National Police (PNP) camp was installed in addition to its station two kilometers away from our camp and closer to the mining company’s barracks.

They need to end the use of laws like the Anti-Terrorism Act and Executive Order 20 which established the National Task-Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict because at the moment it is threatening the safety of environmental defenders. The government should instead make red-tagging an illegal practice and consider protecting all its citizens by refiling and supporting legislation proposed by Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate Bill 2121) which seeks to do just that.

Social media, especially Facebook by Meta, has been weaponized. Environmental defenders, communities affected and organizations they are affiliated with are being attacked by trolls and fake pages and accounts. When we report harassment cases, fake accounts and pages, Meta always responds that such don’t violate its established community standards. Social media must not be sanctuaries for misinformation peddlers, human rights violators and corporate harassers. While celebrated and popular issues have been addressed, impunity by Meta and other social media platforms must also end in the context of those struggling in communities and peripheries.

Energy transition must not also be an excuse for cutting our trees, moving our mountains, killing biodiversity and violating our rights to a healthy environment. We believe that one of the biggest solutions to the climate crisis is the protection of our natural sinks, our forests and rivers, the life-support systems of our delicate flora and fauna and peace-loving communities.

We thank Global Witness for documenting our struggles and fight in Sibuyan Island. We are also grateful to networks which have been assisting us since 2005 like Alyansa Tigil Mina and many faith-based organizations; and also to Kalikasan Peoples Network for Environment which has been always there to respond. To the fourth estate - for truthfully telling our stories; and above all to Sibuyanons who have been fighting and standing up then and now.

We therefore call on the government to immediately cancel the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC). The Mining Act of 1995 must be repealed and a planet and people-centered law must be enacted respecting human rights and ecosystems integrity.

- Rodne R. Galicha, Spokesperson of Sibuyan Island Barricade Camp