Free the Calaca 6!

We demand that the six farmers from Calaca, Batangas arrested with trumped up charges be released immediately. These farmers are our land and environmental defenders at the frontline of our struggle against the coal-fired power plant in Calaca, Batangas.

The locals have long suffered from both environmental and health problems caused by the Calaca coal-fired power plants. The power plants emit toxic ashes through its towers as it falls down and spreads out by wind. Dumps of ashes are also seen in open fields, affecting land, water and air of the community. The residents have been suffering from respiratory problems caused by these toxic materials. In the midst of a health pandemic that attacks the respiratory system, the coal-fired power plants have made locals more prone to sickness.

The struggle against the coal-fired power plant has been a harsh one from the beginning. Fishermen from Calaca named Erning Castellano and Noel Malabanan, who served as the leaders that opposed the construction, were detained by Philippine Constabulary men. Malabanan was shot while Castellano, who was taken, remains missing since 1983. In 2016 and 2018, farmers were accused to be part of the New People’s Army and put on military hitlists.

The struggle continues today with the six farmers dubbed as Calaca 6 arrested last May 10, 2020 enforced by the accusation of government troops and authorities. The arrest happened after locals were raided by the Philippine National Police, Special Weapons and Tactics, the Philippine Airforce, and the Armed Force of the Philippines, including those who weren’t included in the warrant. They sent out a full force team against environmental defenders — farmers that have done nothing but to fight for the environment and their right to till — even accusing them of possessing firearms and explosives through suspected planting of evidence.

As of June 8, Barangay secretary Virgilio Vidals has been released on bail for the trumped up charge of illegal possession of firearms. The other five, farmers who are members of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Coral ni Lopez (SAMACOLO) remain in jail for the non-bailable trumped up charges of illegal possession of explosives. On June 23, 9 am, the five defenders will be arraigned at Balayan Regional Trial Court.

The Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines strongly condemns the terror-tagging and intimidation of our land and environmental defenders in Calaca, Batangas. We call for the immediate release of #Calaca6. This is not an isolated case. All over the Philippines we have seen how environmental defenders have been intimidated, harassed, and attacked. In order to have a society where climate justice is the new normal, we must call for justice for all environmental defenders who have always been at frontline of the struggle. We challenge the Philippine government to listen to and protect our environmental defenders because they are essential to our society’s development. To the Filipino youth, use your voice to amplify the calls of our farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people. Unite to #DefendTheDefenders!

#FreeCalaca6! Click here to sign the petition

Published by Mitzi Jonelle Tan

Convener of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines | Fridays for Future International | Climate Justice and Social Justice Activist

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