The Philippines has once again achieved a leading statistic in Asia, this time for having the highest number of environmentalists killed, based on a report by London-based group Global Witness. The report, which highlights the appalling consequence of people trying to combat environmental destruction, describes an unfair power struggle as companies continue to exploit natural resources.
For 2014 alone, the Philippines had 15 reported deaths on the issue, where nine are indigenous peoples. There might also be unreported killings in very distant communities.
While it can be agreeable to develop natural resources for economic reasons, the effect is completely counteracted by its impact on biodiversity and food and water security for the inhabitants of the area. And while companies promise help and rehabilitation for affected communities, the people choose to be safe than sorry, as seen from the likes of the Tampakan mining issue.
This environmentalist resistance encourages some companies to use force to get what they want; terror and violence have become increasingly evident in Mindanao in recent years.
We live in a time when it’s apparently okay to abuse our people and our natural resources for extra capital. Abusive companies and peoples of power have sadly painted environmental activists as the prime evil, characterizing them as selfish brutes or less-than-human obstructions. In an effort so noble as to protect the environment and the people who rely on it, where does the concept of coercion through violence become morally acceptable? Is the human life so easily expendable for a questionable project, or worse, for a simple business venture?
There should be no sensible (and realistic) frame that makes the exchange of innocent human life for development projects a fair trade.
The point of the matter is that many, mostly indigenous peoples, suffer these human rights violations for a completely unfair scenario. They resisted to protect themselves, but in the end, this resistance causes them to be a target for elimination.
This exposes a slew of possible and already present injustices, ranging from environmental instability to overriding ownership of land and its resources. These occur at an alarming rate, with an even more alarming lack of intervention from national government.
Because at the end of the day, you can kill off all environmentalists and even the environment itself, but no human person could ever make sense of such a mindless pursuit. There must be respect toward the environment, the people who protect it, and the people whose lives rely so heavily on it.