Ambush of Surigao anti-mining leader condemned

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MANILA (30-Oct-2012) – Environmental groups condemned another attempted assassination of an environmentalist in Carmen, Surigao del Sur. At around 3:30PM on October 29, Dr. Isidro Olan, executive director of the Lovers of Nature Foundation Inc., was shot by unidentified assailants in an abandoned lumber-scaling area as he was driving homebound. Dr. Olan survived the attack and was rushed to the Madrid Municipal Hospital.

“Dr. Olan was a passionate environment defender who opposed destructive and large-scale mining as well as illegal logging activities in Cantilan and other areas of Surigao del Sur. We ask for everyone’s prayers for Dr. Olan’s immediate recovery, and for justice to be swiftly exacted upon the assassins and their clients as well,” said Fr. Oliver Castor, spokesperson of Task Force Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED).

The physician-activist and his group Lovers of Nature Foundation were planning to launch a voter education campaign in the province’s schools to promote an environmental agenda in the coming 2013 elections, particularly local government officials that have supported environmentally destructive corporations such as the logging company Surigao Development Corporation and the large-scale Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation.

“It’s not even Halloween and yet this latest attack on Dr. Olan already produces a chilling effect to environmental advocates. 2012 is already the bloodiest year for environmental advocates in this new millennium, and it infuriates us to remember that Pres. Noynoy Aquino dismissed the ever mounting cases of human rights violations in the country is dismissed as just propaganda of the Left. Is the attempt to take the life of Dr. Olan for his defense of the environment not real enough for Aquino?,” said Clemente Bautista, convener of the Defend Patrimony Alliance, a network opposed to resource plunder particularly in mining.

In this year alone, the TF-JED recorded 13 extrajudicial killings of environmental advocates. Beyond killings, the frustrated murder of Dr. Olan is the second case of attempted assassination and at least the 20th overall incident of human rights violations (HRVs) in the country in 2012. Recently, Juvy Capion and her sons Pops and John were massacred by elements of the 27th IBPA of the Philippine Army.

“There could be no other motivation to assassinate Dr. Olan than his staunch opposition to ecologically destructive projects in their areas. If the Aquino government claims to be hard workers for the protection of human rights, we demand to hear about their work on Dr. Olan’s case now. In fact, we would like to hear what about what they have done now about the 61 extrajudicial killings of environment defenders we recorded since 2001 that remains languishing in court up to the present,” challenged Fr. Castor.

Locals have noted the saturation of military operations from the Philippine Army’s 30th and 38th IBPA and its 3rd Special Forces of the 402nd Brigade in the area started with the entry of Marcventures and other mining operations.

“Militarization of Surigao del Sur as a means of protecting mining investments have brought a spate of not only HRVs but also the violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of its indigenous people and other grassroots communities. Militarization could well be linked to Dr. Olan’s assassination. We demand the pullout of military operations along with Marcventures from Surigao as an important step to the quelling of HRVs in the area. Aquino must also prioritize the junking of various mining liberalization policies that have legalized the militarization of mining areas as an incentive for foreign mining investments,” said Bautista.

The Defend Patrimony called for an immediate and independent investigation of the attempted assassination, and the demobilization of Investment Defense Forces (IDF) which allows military and police forces to be employed by corporations to protect their mining facilities and operations.

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