HCWH-Asia Comdemns Killing of Philippine Anti-Coal Activist

Health Care Without Harm - Asia strongly condemns the killing of staunch environmentalist and anti-coal activist Gloria Capitan in her hometown in Mariveles, Bataan in the Philippines last July 1.

Capitan, 57, was president of the progressive group Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokratiko (KDP) and also headed the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Lucanin, which opposed the construction of a coal-fired power plant in the northern province of Bataan. She mobilized her village for a series of protests to petition for the closure of the coal plant and storage facility. She was shot in the neck by two motorcycle-riding gunmen at her family’s karaoke canteen, while her 8-year old grandson sustained a wound from a stray bullet.

“Gloria Capitan, like many other environmentalists killed before her, sacrificed her life to defend the rights of the powerless and vulnerable. Her murder demonstrates how abuses to our environment cause insurmountable damages not only to our surroundings but to people’s lives, especially the poor,” said HCWH-Asia Director Ramon San Pascual. “Whilst defending people's environmental and human rights, the irony is that defenders themselves need to be protected. At the end of the day, Capitan's death and many others' underscore the need for our government, especially the new administration, to protect them from the very harms from which they selflessly protect us.”

“As a member of the climate justice movement in the Philippines, HCWH-Asia calls for immediate justice for Ms. Capitan and hopes that those behind the silencing of environmentalists around the world be made accountable.  As opposed to silence, which is undoubtedly how her murderers hoped social justice movements will react, Capitan's death will be a clarion call to us, her colleagues, to raise our collective voice against injustice.”

HCWH - Asia, through the Healthy Energy Initiative, has been campaigning against fossil fuel-based energy sources and advocating renewable energy sources in the Philippines. The Initiative mobilizes the health sector to educate the public – especially local communities – on the health impacts of energy choices. In 2015, the campaign filmed parts of the short documentary “The Big Show” in Bataan to highlight coal’s negative health impacts in coal-hosting communities.

“We are in solidarity with the communities in Bataan as well as other environmental groups in calling on the government to consider this as a reflection of the many social ills brought about by coal mining.  We hope that under the leadership of both President Duterte and Secretary Lopez, the detrimental effects of coal mining not just to the environment but also to human rights will come to an end,”  San Pascual said.

“In the end, we are one with the call of DENR Sec. Gina Lopez that people must not suffer and communities must not be harmed by economic activities, as well as programs and decisions made by the government.”