The School for Water Defenders

“There are no human rights without human rights defenders”. Ndifuna Ukwazi, 2022.

In the next few weeks, the SHRE will host the School for Water Defenders, presented by and for human rights defenders and activists.

The School for Water Defenders is organised by KAMANDAG (Philippines), The Coastal Justice Network (South Africa), and the Defend Panay Network (Philippines).


Water Security, Development Aggression, Environmental Degradation and Mass Atrocities in the Philippines

Organised by Defend Panay Network

To ensure water supply for urban areas, the Philippine government is pushing for the construction of mega-dams across the country. These structures threaten to displace indigenous peoples, disrupt rivers and disturb ecosystems, and cause deforestation.

From 2000 to 2012, mining operations in the Philippines generated 30 million metric tons of waste and 150 million mt of mine tailings, contaminating rivers and destroying the environment. Last year, the government lifted a state-imposed moratorium on mining activities and more than a hundred projects are already awaiting approval, promising the resumption and expansion of destructive mining operations.

In 2021, the Philippines became the first country to approve the commercial propagation of genetically-modified Golden Rice, which is used in tandem with Glyphosate. GMOs, herbicides, and pesticides are endorsed by the government despite the potential harm to the soil and water sources.

People’s organizations, activists, and civil society actors strongly oppose these programs that primarily benefit private enterprises and multinational companies. As a result, many from their ranks – including farmers, human rights workers, and environmental defenders – have been targeted and persecuted by the government, leading to widespread rights violations such as extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, threats, and malicious prosecution.

In December 2020, nine (9) members of the Indigenous Tumandok community in Panay Island were massacred and 16 others arrested by state forces. The Tumandok were vocal opponents of the Korean Eximbank-funded Jalaur River mega-dam being built on their ancestral land. That year, the Philippines was the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental advocacy.

The speakers will discuss state policies detrimental to the environment and the rights and welfare of affected communities, the obligations under domestic and international law being violated by the Philippine government, and the atrocities perpetrated against civilians in the name of “development” and profits.


John Ian Alenciaga, Human rights activist; Coordinator, Jalaur River for the People Movement
Topic: The Tumandok, the Jalaur River mega-dam project and its adverse impact, and experiences in the struggle against development aggression in the domestic and international arena

Angelo Karlo Guillen, Human rights lawyer; Secretary-General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers – Panay Chapter
Topic: State obligations and human rights violations linked to development projects, environmental protection, and the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples under international law

Karen Faith Villaprudente, Environmental defender, Defend Panay Network
Topic: The Tumandok massacre, the ongoing struggle for the Jalaur River, and current challenges confronting peasants, indigenous peoples, and water security

Defending the ocean at the kelp roots: Stories from Small scale fisher ocean defenders in South Africa

Organised by the Coastal Justice Network

Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect – Wangari Maathai

This panel engages small scale fishers who face the double edged burden of 1. constant exclusions from decisions affecting the ocean, and exclusions from the ocean commons through blunt conservation and regulation measures and 2. playing a critical role in defending the ocean against large scale extraction and damage. As custodians of the ocean for the common good, the perspectives of small-scale fisher, ocean defenders hold significant guidance for movement building and coastal justice. Panelists will reflect on their involvement in resisting and seeking alternatives to ocean oil and gas exploration, coastal mining, enclosure of the ocean commons and un-democratic ocean governance.

Speakers include:

Christian Adams – Small Scale Fishers Collective

Ntsindiso Nongcavu – Coastal Links Eastern Cape

Hilda Adams – Small Scale Fishers Collective

Taryn Pereira – Coastal Justice Network / Rhodes University

Aphiwe Moshani – Coastal Justice Network / University of Cape Town

DANUM: Defending Water, Defending Life

Organised by KAMANDAG

Danum is the local word for water in the northern part of the island of Luzon
and for this webinar, Danum also represents the active defense of the people
to its water, people’s rights, and the environment. “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” says W.H. Auden, a British-American poet. And true enough, for without water, life in general, such as animals, plants, or humanity cannot exist. But threats and challenges to water and people’s rights are now widespread globally. And the people in the central plains of Luzon, Philippines are not spared of the concrete predicaments and issues in relation to water, people’s rights, and the environment.

The central plains of Luzon is a land locked area north of the national capital
region. While the Central Luzon region only pertains to Aurora, Nueva Ecija,
Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, and Bulacan, we have to include the
Pangasinan province, when we talk of the the central ‘plains’ of Luzon. It
occupies the largest contiguous plains in Luzon and hailed as the nation’s rice
granary. Its rich agricultural land are blessed with spring waters, streams, rivers, and river tributaries. Bordering around the region are the mountain ranges of Zambales,
that stretches to parts of Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga, and Bataan; parts of
Caraballo mountains, which connects the province of Nueva Ecija and Nueva
Vizcaya; and parts of Sierra Madre, that stretches in the provinces of Bulacan,
Nueva Ecija, and Aurora. To the south we have the waters of Manila Bay; to the northwest we have the waters of the controversial West Philippine Sea; and to the east we have the Pacific Ocean.

The region is home to national minorities like the Aeta in Zambales mountain
ranges in the Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, and Bataan; and the Dumagat,
Ilonggot, and Agta in parts of Sierra Madre in Bulacan and Aurora. It is also
home to fisherfolks, and peasant farmers, workers, and urban poor
communities. These very same communities faces the daily threat and attack to water,
people’s rights, and the environment. Globally, and for the people of the central
plains of Luzon—water is life. Defending water, is defending life.
As such, an online panel discussion of water and people’s rights defenders
across the region laying out various challenges to water, people’s rights, and the
environment is but timely.

Pia Montalban, Co-convenor KAMANDAG

Bobby Roldan, VP Luzon Pamalakaya Pamalakaya CL People’s Organization of Fisherfolks

Maningning Vilog, Co-Convenor, KAMANDAG

AKAP-KA Manila Bay – Bulacan (TBC)

Eco Dangla, Co-Convenor, Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment

Philip Camara, Environmentalist, People’s Rights Defender

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