Harassment of Mindanao journalists alarm green advocates

ENVIRONMENTAL group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) expressed alarm on the reported harassment of journalists reporting on illegal logging in Mindanao, the latest of human rights violations (HRVs) against environmental advocates that continue to rise this year.

The group denounces the Aquino government in its failure to protect and give justice to environmental advocates who become victims of human rights violations.

“We condemn in the highest terms the death threats thrown at reporters Edwin Iyo and Ben Serrano, and editor Herbie Gomez of the Mindanao-based Gold Star Daily for speaking the truth about illegal logging in Cagayan de Oro. This is telling of how lax and ineffective environmental policies have allowed illegal large-scale loggers to thrive and think they are above the law. In fact, at least five cases of human rights violations against anti-logging activists were recorded since 2001, not including harassment cases that are harder to document,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of  the group.

Iyo and Serrano reported in a June 15 2012 article the filing of charges ordered by the Department on Interior and Local Government against businessman Roger Edma for allegedly using an illegal certificate from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office to transport hot logs.

The group noted that environmental journalists are particularly targeted for their key roles in influencing the public. Five of the 52 recorded killings among environmentalists since 2001 involved environmental journalists, radio broadcasters Dr. Gerry Ortega, Jessie Camangyan and Nestor Libaton.

“It is ironic that reforestation, the Aquino government’s flagship environmental program, has done little to curb the grave impacts of unsustainable logging over the past two years, including logging-related HRVs.

Environment officials boast of confiscating 13.3 million board feet of confiscated illegal forest products on one hand, but exempted large-scale mining companies from the Executive Order 23 log ban on the other. Government inaction also continues towards agri-industrial plantations and other land-use conversion schemes that cover protected forest areas, such as what caused the Typhoon Sendong tragedy that killed thousands,” Bautista pointed out.

In the recent celebration of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) 25th anniversary celebration, one of the accomplishments underscored was the conviction of 57 individuals already convicted stemming from a total of 328 cases filed against violators of the log ban.

“The fact that journalists covering illegal large-scale loggers as well as anti-logging advocates continue to experience HRVs is quite telling that the illicit timber business is still well-entrenched.

The Aquino government must not content itself with small fish and take on big business loggers. It must also pour serious effort into defending environmental defenders from backlashes of private entities and corporations,” Bautista said.

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