The Center for Women’s Resources raises alarm over the recent abduction of human rights and environmental defenders in the Philippines. Last September 2, two community organizers, Jonila Castro, 21, and Jhed Tamano, 22, were abducted by four armed men in Barangay Lati, Orion, Bataan.
The two young women had been experiencing surveillance and harassment while conducting an investigation in the community regarding the impacts of the Manila Bay reclamation project on fisherfolk’s livelihood and flooding in the area. The two were preparing for relief operations and consultation in communities in Bataan, days before they were abducted.
At least 23 land reclamation projects have been approved in Manila Bay, an important fishing ground and hub of marine biodiversity in the country. These projects in the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Cavite have caused the displacement of coastal communities, the decline of fish catch, and the deforestation of mangroves, ultimately contributing to the decline in fisherfolk’s livelihood. The permits for the projects were completed under the Duterte Administration between 2019-2022, these builds are linked with Chinese construction company China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC).
While the Marcos administration has ordered an indefinite suspension of 22 major land reclamation projects in Manila Bay, this is not enough to address the long-term impacts of these projects on the livelihood of fisherfolks. It is also crucial to recognize that this suspension was the result of the relentless and persistent advocacy efforts of local rights groups and civil society organizations.
What is also concerning is the surge in acts of violence and aggression targeting community organizers and environmental rights defenders who oppose the reclamation project. The abduction of Castro and Tamano is only the recent spate of these attacks. In October 2019, Cora Agovida, then spokesperson for Gabriela Manila and a campaigner against land reclamation was illegally arrested and detained for two years. Three other anti-land reclamation activists Ram Carlo Bautista, Alma Moran, and Reina Mae Nasino were arrested in November of the same year.
The Center of Women’s Resources joins the families, fellow volunteers, and anti-reclamation groups in demanding the safe return of Jonila and Jhed, in calling to stop attacks against community organizers and rights defenders, and in putting an end to state-sponsored terror. #