Report | Sept. 24, 2019

Defending the Philippines

Duterte’s broken promises are leaving activists at the mercy of business at all costs in the Philippines, the country with the most killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018.

In 2018, 30 land and environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines, making it the country with the highest number of such killings in the world. As our new investigation shows, despite his election promises, Duterte’s administration is leaving defenders at the mercy of corporate greed.

Mining, agribusiness, logging and coal plants are driving attacks against environmental activists – with household brands such as Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines, and Filipino giants like San Miguel Corporation linked to local partners accused of attacks and murders of protestors.

Download the full investigation, Defending the Philippines (PDF, 5.2MB)

Upon becoming President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte promised to safeguard the country’s rural and indigenous communities, tackle corruption, and protect the environment. Yet our research shows how Duterte has categorically failed to keep these promises, allowing business to continue as usual. And in the Philippines, this means business at all costs. Our report documents a trashing of indigenous rights, endemic corruption, and continued environmental damage – all with impunity

Furthermore, we show how internationally recognised firms including Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, Standard Chartered, Dole Philippines, and the World Bank are connected to attacks against defenders through their business activities in the Philippines.

Key Findings

Violence against land and environmental defenders in the Philippines is a systemic problem, spanning many different regions of the country and many different industries, including:

  • Coal - On the first day of Duterte’s presidency, grandmother Gloria Capitan was killed after opposing coal-storage facilities and a San Miguel Corporation-owned coal power plant, backed by Standard Chartered and the World Bank, which was polluting her community in Bataan.
  • Agribusiness - Renato Anglao was murdered after he protested the grabbing of indigenous land in Bukidnon, until 2019 used by a local landowner and Mayor to produce fruit for Del Monte Philippines. This follows our recent revelations that another major agribusiness company, Dole Philippines, subleased land to grow bananas from a notorious gun dealer accused of using fraud and coercion to gain rights to indigenous land.
  • Logging – The tourist boom in Palawan is fuelling violence, with Ruben Arzaga killed when apprehending illegal loggers felling trees to furnish boutique hotels. He was the twelfth member of a local environmental group to be murdered in less than two decades.
  • Mining – A farmers’ association leader, Jimmy Saypan, was murdered by hitmen following protests against the illegal activities of gold and silver mining company AgPet. The company is financed – again – by beer and manufacturing giant San Miguel.

In none of these cases has justice been done.


Duterte’s government must comply with international law and take action to prevent abuses of land rights and of the environment, protect defenders at risk, and hold the perpetrators of intimidation and violence to account.

Those doing business in the Philippines must also recognise their role in facilitating violence – whether through proactive strategies, turning a blind eye, or simply negligence – and clean up their acts or be held accountable.

Consumers can play a part too – by demanding that the fruit they buy or the hotel they stay in isn’t associated with bloodshed, and by demanding that their government take a stand to enable those defending their land and our environment to do so without fearing for their lives.

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