The social justice arm of the Philippine Catholic Church has demanded an end to what it labeled as a “government crackdown” against environmental defenders in the country.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Caritas Philippines expressed concern over alleged state-sanctioned attacks on environmental activists “who are simply working to protect our planet.”
He cited the recent case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who disappeared two weeks ago while working with communities opposed to the controversial reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
The activists were freed on Tuesday night, hours after appearing at a government press conference where they deviated from the script and accused the military of abduction.
However, the military has repeatedly denied the allegations.
“[It] is a clear attempt to silence environmental defenders and intimidate those who speak out against destructive development projects,” Bagaforo said.
The national Caritas called on the government to hold those responsible for the abduction and enforced disappearance of the two activists accountable.
Caritas Philippines believes that protecting the environment is essential in building a just and peaceful world.
“On this International Day of Peace, we urge the government to listen to the voices of environmental defenders and to work with them to protect our planet and the rights of all Filipinos,” Bagaforo said.