The Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders participated in the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) launched on September 10-12, 2019 at the Thammasat University Convention Center in Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province, Thailand. The theme of APF for the year was “Advancing People’s Movements for Justice, Peace, Equality, Sustainability and Democracy in Southeast Asia.”
APNED, represented by the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, was able to present in the Workshop on Corporate Accountability and Dismantling Corporate Power on September 11, 2019. The first presentation was entitled “OceanaGold Mining in the Philippines: Human Rights and People’s Response” and the second presentation was entitled “In Defense of Rights Defenders: A Forum Workshop in the State of Human Rights Defenders in Southeast Asia.”
The first presentation showed the impacts of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI), an Australian-Canadian mining company operating in Nueva Vizcaya province, on the environment and human rights. It specifically tackled the decline in water supply that affected both domestic and agricultural needs. The indigenous people communities then launched a series protests and set up a people’s barricade to stop the company’s operations. Because of this, they experienced arrests, harassment and threats by the mining company and the government. Their struggle showed the importance of people’s united action in the defense of the environment and of human rights.
The second presentation was about the situation of environmental defenders in Southeast Asia. Data from the Global Witness report in 2019 showed that 20% of the killings of environmental defenders occurred in Southeast Asia. The Philippines had the highest number of killings, amounting to 30. Most of the killings were in areas with conflicts related to mining, logging and land grabbing. The presentation further emphasized that there were other forms of human rights violations other than killings, including criminalization, harassment, intimidation, internal displacement and enforced disappearances. The common points that the countries in the region were facing was that destructive projects both by corporations and the government has deprived communities of much-needed resources and this resulted from their opposition. To quell this, private and State armed forces are being utilized causing countless of human rights violations worsening the existing situation of the communities.
The workshop ended with the recognition of the important role of environmental defenders in protecting the environment and human rights, and the call for stronger solidarity and unity.
The participants of APNED along with Asia Pacific Research Network members were also able to hold an action to call for an investigation of the human rights situation in the Philippines.