Press Release: Global Day of Remembrance Honors Environmental Heroes and Martyrs
November 12, 2010
Global Day of Remembrance Honors Environmental Heroes and Martyrs
Manila – Environment rights activists and civil society organizations lit candles and offered prayers on November 10, 2010 (Wednesday) to remember and honor fallen heroes and martyrs fighting against mining and other extractive projects. An elegy march and a candle-lit solidarity memorial were held simultaneously at Cagayan De Oro City.
“This day is historic because for the first time, various organizations will gather in various parts of the world, to remember and honor our fallen heroes and martyrs who demonstrated excellence, courage, and willingness to offer their lives for the marginalized peoples who were deprived of their own wealth, livelihood and promise of a better life by mining and other extractive projects” sad Judy Pasimio of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan/ Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils) .
The day coincides with 15th death anniversary of writer-activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders in Nigeria, who were hanged by the Nigerian Military Government because of their staunch opposition to Shell’s oil mining operations in the Niger Delta area.
The activity was co-organized by LRC-KsK/FoE Phils, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Haribon Foundation Incorporated, Alternative Law Groups (ALG), Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission-Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (JPICC-AMRSP), Amnesty International (AI) and Friends of the Earth International.
Honoring today’s martyrs
Among those honored by the organizers were Ricardo Ganad of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), Gensun Agustin of ALBUCODA/FAMAC, Mike Samson Rivera, Armin Rios Marin, Eliezer Boy Billanes and 18 others.
Hon. Armin Rios Marin, a Municipal Councilor was killed by the chief security guard of the Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corp. (SNPDC) in the Island of Sibuyan, Province of Romblon on October 2000. Marin was killed while leading the protest against nickel mining in their island operated by SNDPC.
Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, brutally killed on March 9, 2009 in front of the people in the public market of Koronadal City in South Cotabato. Billanes was known for his courage and as a relentless fighter against large mining companies and in advancing human rights.
At the time of his death, he chairs SoCCSKSarGenDS- Alliance for Genuine Development (AGENDA) Inc. and Coalition of Anti-Mining Movement (CAMM). He was the also the Secretary General of South Cotabato People’s Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (SOCPAND), Project Director of Samahan sa mga Magsasaka sa Timog Kutabato (SAMATIKU) and Board of Director of the Protected Area Management Board of the Allah Valley Protected Area representing the Civil Society Development Organizations.
Billanes actively denounce and fight the Tampakan Copper Gold Project (TCGP) operating in the quadri boundary of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces. TCGP is operated by Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI), which share owners include Swiss based Xstrata Copper and Filipino diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC).
Billanes also actively lobbied for the approval of the South Cotabato Provincial Environment Code with provisions that would specifically ban large –scale open pit mining in the province.
These advocacies put Billanes into constant harassments and death threats from state as well as company agents. He stood his ground until his death.
“Today’s environmental and human rights activists still suffer harassments and even get killed” said Pasimio, who also denounced the criminalization and communist tagging scheme of by the state and its agents of rights activists to silence them.
Pasimio slams the recent “red” tagging of one of its senior staff by retired police officer Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza during a forum organized by Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP). Mendoza claim that Jean Marie Ferraris is a “a purported member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Phillipines and that she headed the international financial cell in that country”.
“This is simply not correct. Jean Marie Ferraris is a senior staff of a SEC registered legal and research institution, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK) and the Philippine member of an international grassroots environmental federation, Friends of the Earth. Ms. Ferraris lives in Davao City, and is the head of LRC Davao Office” said Pasimio.
Pasimio believes that the recent stunt by Mendoza was meant to harass and silence Ms. Ferraris and other environmental and human rights advocates and communities who continue oppose the Tampakan Copper Gold Project.
“Like Billanes, Ms. Ferraris and our Davao office are in close partnership with communities and civil society organizations opposing various extractive projects including mining, coal fired power plants and coal mining as well as commercial plantations in the SoCSKSARGENDS area. No doubt this communist tagging is but a prelude to a more sinister plot of ‘neutralizing’ dissent”
“On this day of global remembrance, we call on the P-Noy administration to eliminate the threat directed towards social activist, and ensure that the number of fallen heroes and martyrs fighting for community rights will decline if not stop, as we commit that our numbers of rights defenders will rise, and increase, as we continue the struggle for justice and genuine development for all” Pasimio added.###
Erwin B. Quinones
Communications and Networking Officer
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Kasama sa Kalikasan
Friends of the Earth Philippines
Tel: (632) 926-4409 I Telefax: (632) 434-4079