Environment-related killings continue: environmental advocate gunned down in Ilocos

January 10, 2017

While traveling along the national highway on his motorcycle, educator and former environmental broadcaster Mario Contaoi was gunned down and killed by an unknown assailant last January 7.

Contaoi, an instructor who taught at the University of Northern Philippines in Vigan and a former commentator at dzNS Radyo Totoo station, was known for tackling environmental issues and their links with militarization in areas were destructive projects are located.

“We condemn the senseless killing of Mario Contaoi, who is the eighth environmental advocate who has been killed under the Duterte administration. There is a clearly persisting impunity facing environmental defenders and other activists. An independent and impartial investigation should immediately be conducted on the murder of Contaoi,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

According to Sherwin de Vera, coordinator of Kalikasan PNE’s regional network DEFEND Ilocos, “while the assailant’s motive(s) remains unclear, the authorities must not discount his previous stint as radio commentator and his sharp commentaries on environmental issues as possible reasons for his murder.”

There are now at least 105 cases of environment-related killings recorded by Kalikasan PNE since 2001. On average, killings under the previous Arroyo administration reached almost four cases per year, while the Aquino administration averaged almost 10 killings per year. In the first six months of the Duterte administration, there are already seven cases indicating almost triple the rate under Arroyo.

Kalikasan PNE noted that in a dialogue between Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and environmental and indigenous people’s leaders last October 2016, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez declared that she will support an investigation of environment-related killings.

“We hope Sec. Lopez would help push the Duterte administration to seriously probe the unabated killings of environmental advocates. Ensuring the rights of environmental defenders and grassroots communities should be an integral component of President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to stop environmentally destructive projects. Destructive and pollutive companies will be emboldened to be even more aggressive if its opponents continue to be subjected to fascist attacks,” ended Dulce.#