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Anti-coal activist murdered in the Philippines

  • On July 1, two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed anti-coal activist, Gloria Capitan, inside her karaoke bar in Mariveles, Bataan in the Philippines.
  • She sustained three gunshot wounds, two in the neck and one in the arm, local media reported.
  • Capitan, 57, led her community in a series of protests against pollution from an open coal storage facility close to her neighborhood, and demanded its permanent closure.

On July 1, two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed anti-coal activist, Gloria Capitan, inside her karaoke bar in Mariveles, Bataan in the Philippines.

Capitan, 57, sustained three gunshot wounds, two in the neck and one in the arm, local media reported. Her eight-year-old grandson reportedly suffered injuries from a stray bullet that grazed his arm.

Capitan was a president of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Lucanin, a community-based organization, and she led her community in a series of protests against pollution from an open coal storage facility close to her neighborhood, and demanded its permanent closure. The storage facility is run by Sea Front Shipyard Services, Inc, a subsidiary of Limay Bulk and Handling Terminal. Capitan also fought actively against the expansion of coal plants in Bataan province.

“If this is a message to silence other anti-coal activists like her, then they are mistaken,” Val De Guzman, a campaigner for the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, said in a statement. “Because on the ground where Ate Glo’s [Capitan’s] body fell, where the blood from her body flows more anti-coal activists will sprout. Instead of silencing us, it will only strengthen our convictions, that the evil menace of coal must end. And we will persevere in this fight and see to it that our children and the children of our children will be free from it.”

Representatives and supporters from Greenpeace, Healthcare Without Harm Asia, Health Justice Philippines and the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice show their opposition to coal fired-power plants with the release of the report Coal: A Public Health Crisis: Deaths and diseases attributed to coal use in the Philippines. Photo by Roy Lagarde/Greenpeace.

According to a report released last year titled On Dangerous Ground, Brazil and the Philippines are two of the most dangerous places for environmental activists. Of the estimated 185 environmentalists killed in 2015, around 33 activists were killed in the Philippines alone.

“Gloria Capitan, like many other environmentalists killed before her, sacrificed her life to defend the rights of the powerless and vulnerable,” Ramon San Pascual, Director of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)-Asia, said in a statement. “Her murder demonstrates how abuses to our environment cause insurmountable damages not only to our surroundings but to people’s lives, especially the poor. 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.”