The online news portal of TV5
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Environmentalism has proven to be a deadly advocacy under the current administration, with 13 activists murdered, nine of them in Mindanao, since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office.
The latest victim, Fred Trangia, a former village official and known environmental activist, was gunned down May 6 in Barangay Mainit, Nabunturan town, Compostela Valley province.
Trangia was very vocal against mining companies’ plans to operate in his village, which is within a national park.
Also on May 9, Margarito Cabal, a leader of the group Save Pulangi River, was killed in Bukidnon.
Representative Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party called the rash of murders targeting environmentalists alarming.
“Mindanao’s resources as well as those who work to preserve it are under attack and Mindanoans hold President Aquino and his Oplan Bayanihan responsible,” said Ilagan.
She noted that the killing of environmentalists has coincided with increasing military presence in indigenous people’s areas following “the Aquino government’s pronouncements supporting large-scale mining activities, the exemption of mining companies from log bans, and the President’s outright consent to deploy military units and recruit militias for mining companies.”
Other activists are singled out for harassment.
Benedictine nun and anti-mining advocate Sister Stella Matutina has been the object of relentless vilification from the 28th Infantry Battalion based in Mati City, Davao Oriental.
The soldiers, she said, had been going around villages in the city tagging her as a member of the New People’s Army.
Similar accusations were hurled against Italian priest Father Fausto Tentorio before he was murdered last year.
The military has denied Matutina’s accusations.
However, the nun said she could not help but recall a 2009 incident in a remote village in Cateel where she and other environmental activists woke up with the barrels of a soldier’s rifles in their faces.
On March 5, Matigsalog tribal leader Jimmy Liguyon, vice chair of the indigenous peoples’ group Kasilo in San Fernando Bukidnon, was also killed.
Ilagan also took note of recent evacuations of indigenous peoples from their communities because of military operations against communist guerrillas.
In the town of Trento in Agusan del Sur Province, at least 80 families from the far-flung village of New Visayas fled because of military operations.
Earlier this year, at least 125 families from various Mamanwa communities in the adjacent barangays of Ombong, Alegria in Surigao del Norte and Bangayan, Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte also evacuated due to militarization.
“Among the evacuees are 53 children, all six-years old and below and 52 women, nine of whom are pregnant. Families have been prevented from returning to their farms, losing crops, farm animals and their livelihood in the process,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan blamed government’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which she described as the “Aquino government’s bloody tact in its firm support of multinational mining interests.”