By Kalikasan PNE
Statement released on the occasion of the Global Day of Action for Food and Justice for the victims of the Kidapawan Shooting, 08 April 2016
Last March 30, widespread drought and hunger moved 6,000 Filipino farmers to stage a massive barricade on the national highway in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato province. With their fields dried up and with no aid coming for months, the barricaders simply demanded for an immediate three sacks of rice each family, and enough agricultural implements to help them grow back what they lost later.
On the barricade’s third day on April 1, the province’s Philippine National Police (PNP) violently dispersed and opened fire upon the barricading farmers. A national fact-finding and humanitarian mission was conducted and confirmed the carnage: two were dead, at least 10 were wounded, 45 men and 25 women were illegally detained, and no less than 359 people required medical attention.
Local government authorities implemented a virtual martial law in Kidapawan: the thousands of protesters were forcibly hamleted inside a compound of the United Methodist Church. They quickly attempted to cover-up the dispersal scene. They prevented media from getting into the church compound, cut off their electricity for a time, and a food blockade was implemented to prevent quick-response aid from reaching the protesters.
The national government’s failure to mitigate the long forecasted impacts of the El Nino climate cycle since 2014 have led to a slow-onset disaster that has affected more than 135,000 families. This criminal negligence in the face of climate disasters, in turn, sparked the farmers’ protests, a pattern eerily reminiscent of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) in 2013.
This pattern of perpetrating systematic human rights violations against environmental defenders and frontline communities confronting environmental destruction and the climate crisis is apparently already on a global scale.
In Honduras, reportedly the deadliest place for environmental defenders, indigenous activist Berta Caceres, was assassinated last March 3. Two weeks after, her colleague Nelson Garcia was also killed. Both were members of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) that opposes the construction of the USAID-funded Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant in the Gualcarque river basin.
Days after the Kidapawan carnage in the Philippines, a peaceful anti-coal assembly of around 500 Bangladeshi was also dispersed with bullets. Three people were killed and several others were injured. The people of Bangladesh were opposing the construction of a 1,320 Megawatt (MW) coal power plant financed by two Chinese firms namely, SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG.
The worsening environmental and climate conditions have created crises and social unrest in various parts of the world where poor and marginalized sectors of society were the most vulnerable. The aggressive encroachment of dams, mining, power plants, agri-industrial plantations and other so-called ‘development projects’ have put the state of our environment in peril, and have violated on the rights of the people.
On today’s occasion of the Global Day of Action for Food and Justice to the Kidapawan farmers, we join our fellow Filipino people not only to pour out condemnation and rage on the merciless massacre of farmers in Kidapawan City a week after the bloodbath, but also to express our solidarity to the people of Honduras, Bangladesh, and other people of the world that continue to bravely stand in the defense of the environment and people’s rights.
As one chorus we demand: quench drought and hunger with food and justice, not a rain of bullets!