Environmental Advocacy is a Dangerous Business
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So dangerous in fact, it can literally get you killed. Right at the airport of Puerto Princesa in Palawan, a banner calling for justice for the murder of a journalist and environmental activist greets you after you step off the plane.
Palawan, a group of islands on the western side of the Philippines, has some of the richest and most diverse natural resources in the country, and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Underground River is probably one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet.
But beneath the postcard-perfect sceneries, environmental advocates are struggling to protect these resources from the onslaught of mining and illegal fishing. They also have to contend with the systemic corruption in government.
Doc Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster, veterinarian and environmentalist in Puerto Princesa was gunned down two months ago in a thrift store right beside his pet shop. His family and colleagues believe he was murdered because of his hard-hitting criticisms against some local government officials for the alleged misuse of royalties from a natural gas project. He was also a passionate anti-mining activist and an advocate for community-based sustainable eco-tourism.
A few days after his death, a multi-sector coalition launched a “No to Mining in Palawan” signature campaign which aims to collect 10 million signatures in support of the movement. Doc Gerry lived for a cause he believed in and was killed while still fighting for it. If 10 million people would support that cause following his death, then maybe things are not so hopeless after all.