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Caritas Philippines, the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, calls on the government to end its crackdown on environmental defenders and respect their rights.

“We are deeply concerned by the government’s attacks on environmental defenders, who are simply working to protect our planet and the rights of communities affected by climate change and environmental degradation,” said Caritas Philippines president Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo.

Caritas Philippines is particularly concerned about the abduction and enforced disappearance of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, two young environmental activists who were abducted by the military on September 2, 2023 while conducting research on the impacts of land reclamation along the coasts of Manila Bay. They were released on September 19, 2023 after a public outcry.

“The government’s abduction of Castro and Tamano is a clear attempt to silence environmental defenders and intimidate those who speak out against destructive development projects,” said Bishop Bagaforo.

Caritas Philippines calls on the government to hold those responsible for the abduction and enforced disappearance of Castro and Tamano accountable.

On the other hand, Atty. Tony Laviña of the Klima Center of the Manila Observatory, during the Philippine bishops’ executive course at the Caritas Philippines Academy, said “now is a good time for the Public Affairs Commission of the CBCP to hold NTF-ELCAC into account.”

Caritas Philippines believes that protecting the environment is essential for 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,” said Bishop Bagaforo.