Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. is deeply concerned about the disappearance of two young women environmental advocates Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro aged 21 and 22, who went missing on September 2, 2023.
These young environmental advocates were reportedly abducted while working on a relief mission for communities in Bataan. Reports of surveillance prior to their abduction worry us and raise the question: Is their commitment to the protection of environmental rights and championing the needs of vulnerable communities the motivation for this abduction?
We have been witness to the dangers posed to environmental human rights defenders for many years now. International monitoring groups have consistently reported that the Philippines is among the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders. Yet, the growing struggles of people in communities on environmental plunder remain localized and of secondary import compared to most urgent political issues such as internal armed conflicts, foreign affairs, interstate conflicts, or issues that affect "national security".
Within the context of massive biodiversity loss, atmospheric pollution and climate changes, safeguarding our environmental defenders is a necessary measure to protect our ailing environment.
We stand in solidarity with the call for the immediate surfacing of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro and demand a thorough and transparent investigation into their disappearance. The pattern of abductions of environmental defenders, as highlighted by recent cases, is deeply alarming and demands urgent attention from authorities. It is imperative that those responsible for these abductions are held accountable, and that the safety and well-being of Jhed and Jonila are ensured.
These incidents underscore the critical need to strengthen protection for the rights of environmental defenders and human rights activists. We echo the calls to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to create a safe and supportive environment for those who dedicate themselves to environmental justice.
We urge the authorities to prioritize the protection of human rights defenders and ensure their rights to life, liberty, and security are upheld, in accordance with both national and international human rights principles.