(EnviroNews World News) — Manila, Philippines — On Jan. 6, 2017, environmental journalist Mario Contaoi was shot dead in the Northern Philippines. According to the Manila Times, Contaoi was riding his motorcycle when he was shot by tandem riders on the national highway. He later died in the hospital. While no official motive has been giving for the murder, many Philippine media outlets, and those familiar with Contaoi, are linking the death to his journalistic work.
The Philippines is one of the deadliest countries in the world for environmental journalists. According to UCANews, Contaoi’s death makes a total of eight killed over the last six months and 105 in the past six years. The two previous government regimes in the Philippines suffered four (Arroyo’s government) and 10 (Aquino’s administration) cases per year respectively, according to the Manila Times. The death toll in six months under newly elected Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, is already twice what the earlier Arroyo regime faced.
“There is a clear persisting danger facing environmental defenders and other activists,” Leon Dulce, Campaign Coordinator of the group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, told UCANews.
Journalists aren’t the only people dying in service to humankind; environmental activists are facing death for their opposition to illegal and unethical actions by governments and businesses as well. 2015 was a record year for activist murders. According to Global Watch, 185 activists were killed in 16 different countries, which is an increase of almost 60 percent over 2014. The deaths of 42 activists can be traced to protest activities. Brazil was ranked first with 50 deaths, and the Philippines ranked second with 33 deaths. Numbers for 2016 have yet to be compiled.
“Environmental human rights defenders are at the heart of our future and the future of our planet… I call upon all stakeholders to urgently and publicly adopt a zero-tolerance approach to the killings and violent acts against environmental human rights defenders, and to immediately launch policies and mechanisms to empower and protect them,” wrote Michael Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation facing human rights defenders, in his report.
While the media and other organizations call for protecting environmental defenders and demilitarizing mining, logging and other destructive harvesting of the earth’s resources, activists and journalists must be prepared to give their lives while trying to preserve the planet — for now and the foreseeable future.
As a conclusion to this article, the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board has issued a statement directly to Contaoi’s killers and others like them who seek to silence environmental truth tellers: