International NGOs slam attacks on Philippine green groups

Catholic priest laments poor participation of church people in global climate strike
International NGOs slam attacks on Philippine green groups

Environmental activists hold demonstrations in Manila at the start of the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

International non-government groups have denounced what they described as "ongoing harassment" by state agents against environmental activist groups in the Philippines.

The groups expressed "shock and alarm" over a reported plan by authorities to raid the offices of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the Center for Environmental Concerns in Manila.

"Although the raid has not materialized ... we are deeply concerned for their wellbeing," read a joint statement released on Sept. 23 by Dutch environmental groups.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature - National Committee of the Netherlands and Both ENDS said the Philippine organizations have provided valuable input to a "sustainable development masterplan" carried out in a Dutch-Filipino partnership.

The Dutch groups said their local counterparts were active in "defending the rights" of farmers and tribal people against environmental damage and human rights violations.

The local groups claimed that it was tipped off by a "reliable source" last week that their offices were allegedly under police surveillance for being a "front of rebels."

In a separate statement, the British watchdog Global Witness called on the government to guarantee the security of environmental activists.

The international organization noted that aside from using "deadly violence" against environmental defenders, "governments and companies are also using courts and legal systems as instruments of oppression against those who threaten their power and interests."

"These trends continue across the globe, helped by populist politicians who are stripping away vital environmental protections when we need them most," added the watchdog.

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan, said the "harassment" came after they submitted a report on environment-related killings.

Global Climate Strike

A Catholic priest in Manila, meanwhile, lamented that Filipinos are "afraid to speak out and stand up" for the environment because the government has instilled fear among the people.

Franciscan priest Pete Montallana who heads the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance said killings, so-called red-tagging, and harassment "are meant to frighten the general public."

The priest said Filipinos need "to go beyond fear and come out against those in power who are not taking a break to destroy our common home and our future."

He also slammed the "poor participation" of church people in the ongoing climate strike. "We cannot just pray inside a church and do nothing," he told ucanews.org.

On Sept. 20, hundreds of Filipinos joined the start of a week-long global climate strike to put pressure on governments and businesses to address ecological concerns.

"Our country must stand as one of the leaders in this climate emergency because we are one of the most vulnerable to the impact of the climate crisis," said Father Montallana.

Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc., said the Philippines’ climate strike "has strengthened the promotion to protect our common home."

"We need to come together to stand stronger and engage the government to create policies in favor of the environment," she said.

The Global Climate Strike, also known as the Global Week for Future, is a series of international protest actions that are taking place in 150 countries.

It runs from Sept. 20, three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, and ends on the 27th of the month.

Mark Saludes contributed to this report.

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