Defending Ocean Defenders, Protecting the Oceans
World Oceans Day is held every 8th of June annually to unite the world in celebrating the wonders of the oceans and taking actions to protect our shared marine resources. The oceans and marine biodiversity are unfortunately degrading at a fast rate due to destructive human practices. In the Philippines, the rich marine biodiversity and grassroot stakeholders are threatened with habitat degradation and biodiversity loss due to exploitative and profit-driven practices that rob the communities of its wonders.
People who defend our marine resources are also in danger since they are faced with human rights violations. According to Global Witness, the Philippines is the deadliest country for land and environment defenders. With the on-going COVID-19 pandemic that already affected their way of living and the currently-railroading of Anti-Terrorism Bill with over-broad and vague definitions of terrorism will embolden state perpetrators to do more of this against environmental activists.
Even now without the controversial bill, human rights violations are worsening. An example of this is the militarization of the Taliptip community even under the enhanced community quarantine. Harassment and intimidation of leaders are reported as San Miguel Corp. Aerotropolis aggressively persuaded the communities towards displacement. Military personnel was also deployed in Taliptip to silence communities. To add, President Duterte said in one of his late night addresses that he is willing to sell Dewey Boulevard or Roxas Boulevard in exchange for rice.
During the rise of the pandemic, heavy Chinese militarization in the West Philippine Sea causes the Philippines P33.1 billion in sea damage annually. China repeatedly harassed and barred Filipino fishermen from fishing, and even sank the Philippine fishing boat GemVer1 in 2019, all incidents of which the government remained passive.
World Oceans Day should serve as a wake-up call for the people to act more decisively with the ongoing global and national environmental situation. We should demand the government to do the same, not in criminalizing dissent, but in prioritizing sovereignty, the environment, and the people over vested business interests.