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Philippine groups rally against attacks on environmental defenders

Activist groups in the Philippines are raising support for what they described as “exemplary acts of heroism” of environmental defenders.

On Nov. 28, various groups launched the Environmental Defenders Congress in Manila to strengthen “community care” for people who take care of the environment.

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said the “heroic acts” of green activists often result in systematic attacks and killings.”

Data from Kalikasan show that at least 225 people, including government forest rangers, have been killed in the Philippines since 2001.

An international environmental watchdog Global Witness report tagged the Philippines in September as the world’s most dangerous country for activists.

The report noted that 113 environmental activists and land rights defenders had been killed in the past three years alone.

Dulce appealed to the public, including faith-based groups, to support the initiative. “We need to stand together for the environment and the people working to save it,” he said.

“It is our mission to come together and strengthen our defense of the environment,” said lawyer Antonio La Vina, lead convener of the conference.

He called on the government to “recognize and respect” the work of environmental activists, and to work for the safety of all environmental defenders.

The initiative plans to submit a bill in the Philippine Congress that will define the rights of “environmental defenders.”

It aims to provide penalties for violations of “environmental rights” and advance the people’s right to a “balanced and healthful ecology.”

In a statement, the Environmental Defender’s Congress describes itself as “an alliance that aims to spread [environmental] bravery and excellence in the Philippines.”

“We have an eternal hope because the courage of the defenders is eternal as well. As long as the community is resolute, the fight of the environmental defenders will endure,” said Kalikasan’s Dulce.

Karen Sabit contributed to this report.

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