The advocacy group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment called on candidates in this year’s Philippine elections to champion the protection of environmental defenders.
In a statement released this week, the group said the protection of the environment and the defense of the people who are working against ecological destruction “should be a platform” for every candidate.
Kalikasan PNE made the appeal as it renewed calls to drop a cyber libel complaint filed against Sarah “Bestang” Dekdeken of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA).
“A year has passed, and the case is being dragged in court, causing undue difficulties and other costs,” read the group’s statement.
Retired police Brig. Gen. R’Win Pagkalinawan, former Cordillera regional police chief, sued Dekdeken for blaming the police officer in the dismantling of a memorial to the late tribal leader Macli-ing Dulag.
Kalikasan PNE said the CPA and Dekdeken have been proactive in campaigning against multiple mega-dam projects in the area.
The groups have been opposing the construction of the US$90-million Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, which is one of the flagship projects of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
In 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was able to reach a loan agreement with China to fund the building of the irrigation project.
CPA, however, the project will displace at least 100,000 individuals and submerge their communities and farmlands.
The group said the project will result in the “privatization of agricultural services … under the guise of advancing a socio-economic agenda.”
The Cordillera region is dubbed as the watershed cradle of the northern Philippines. Its forests sustain six of Northern Luzon’s major river systems.
About 85 percent of the region is classified as forestland while 30 percent is designated as a forest reserve.
The region’s river basins have an enormous water-bearing capacity with a total drainage area of 5,447,500 hectares and groundwater storage of about 150 million cubic meters.