Disappearances: The Dangers of Environmental Activism in the Philippines

Disappearances: The Dangers of Environmental Activism in the Philippines
Photo Source: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Quezon City, Philippines, by Aaron Favila, via AP Photo, July 25 th 2022


Nuno Daun

Southeast Asia & Pacific Team

Global Human Rights Defence

Economic Development vs Environmental Preservation

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, took office in June of 2022. Since, he has lobbied to invest in large mining and renewable energy projects as an attempt at increasing the Philippines’ economic potential. However, these actions have led to backlash from Environmental Activists and Indigenous Leaders in these mineral-rich regions, who are in favour of the preservation of the natural land in which some reside.

Disappearances of Tamano & Castro

Since the election of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, at least 15 outspoken community organisers and activists have allegedly gone missing. More notoriously are the cases of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro,aged 22 and 21 respectively. On the 2 nd of September, two volunteers who were allegedly grabbed on the street by four armed and masked men and put into an SUV, after having spent the day aiding the fishing communities affected by the Manila Bay development project. The Philippine National Authorities have publicly stated that the disappearances of Tamano and Castro were not caused by State actions but rather by outside unnamed groups. The disappearances of Tamano & Castro could be indicative of the dangers
Environmental Activists face in the Philippines.

Earlier 2022, Jonila’s mother, Rosalie Castro, claims that she had been approached several times by a man who identified himself as Military officer, to inquire about her daughter’s involvement in the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed communist group, to which she denied her daughter’s involvement. On the 5 th of September, Rosalie and her community reported the disappearances of Tamano and Castro. She claims that the Police labelled Tamano and Castro as communists and consequently refused to file a report, as a means
of criminalization.

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights manifests its concerns in the continuous disappearance of Activists. Global Witness has recorded 195 killings of Environmental Activists in the last six years. In February of 2023, two Indigenous residents of Sybuyan were injured whilst barricading to prevent the passage nickel mining trucks.


Due to the international media attention that sparked after the footage of the incident involving the two Indigenous Activists went viral on social media, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addressed the issue, claiming that he would halt reclamation projects for time being, pending further review. However, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not issue a formal executive order, giving his claims no legal force.

Sources and further readings:

Nick Aspinwall, ‘Disappearances ‘speak to dangers’ of environmental activism in Philippines’ Al
Jazeera (13 September 2023) < https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/13/disappearances-speak-to-dangers-of-environmental-activism-in-philippines >  accessed 18 September 2023.
 Global Witness, ‘Two Filipino environmental advocates violently abducted after opposing
controversial airport project’ (14 September 2023) < https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/two-filipino-environmental-advocates-violently-abducted-after-opposing-controversial-airportproject/#:~:text=14th%20September%202023%2C%20London%20%2D%20Global,the%20Philippines%20island%20of%20Luzon > accessed 18 September 2023.