Fisherfolk couple murdered over long-running battle against coastal and land-use conversion — PAMALAKAYA
Manila, Philippines — The fisherfolk couple killed in a region-wide police crackdown against Southern Tagalog activists were active members of a local environmental group involved on protection of land and coastal resources in Nasugbu, Batangas, according to fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA).
At least nine activists were dead and six others were arrested when combined police and military “savagely raided” various houses and offices in different areas of Southern Tagalog on Sunday morning.
PAMALAKAYA along with human rights group KARAPATAN conducted a fact-finding mission on the case of extrajudicial killings of the Evangelista couple in Brgy. Calayo, Nasugbu, Batangas on March 10.
“We grieve while demanding justice for our murdered colleagues. We will not stop until the police perpetrators and their mastermind are held to account,” said Salvador France, Secretary General of PAMALAKAYA.
“They were parents of a ten year-old child, fishers, non-combatants, environmental defenders and democratic activists most of all, contrary to the police claim that they possessed weapons and fought back against authorities who savagely raided their house.”
PAMALAKAYA said the fisherfolk couple Chai Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista were both members of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan (UMALPAS KA), a local environmental organization in Nasugbu, Batangas. The Evangelistas were active in the long-standing campaign against coastal and land-grabbing by private developers within the 8,650-hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu.
Prior to their death, Ariel Evangelista, as a fisherman, he opposed the construction of around 150 fish cages in the town’s municipal waters. The fish cage project, according to PAMALAKAYA, would privatize Nasugbu’s communal fishing waters and would dispossess municipal fisherfolks from their livelihood.
Local fishers and farmers, including the Evangelistas, were at the forefront of the decades-long land dispute in Hacienda Looc. This made their local organizations targets of red-tagging and state-sponsored political persecution.
The 8,000-hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas is being fought for since 1994 when Henry Sy’s company Manila South Coast Development Corporation (MSDC) entered Looc for ecotourism projects.
This was followed by the displacement of thousands of fisherfolks in Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu to make way for the conversion of the coastal community into the Hamilo Coast, also by MSDC.
“As fisherfolks themselves and as local environmental defenders, the Evangelista couple starkly opposed the aggressive conversion of their lands and communities, despite harassments and threats,” France added. “Their righteous struggle for land was met with a bloody murder. We pay tribute to them by demanding justice.”
The mission was also composed of progressive organizations from Anakpawis Party-list, Amihan Peasant Women, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), and KARAPATAN Southern Tagalog. ###
Chai and Ariel Evangelista were leading UMALPAS KA in opposing the planned fish cage project in Brgy. Calayo and displacement of fisherfolk community. Photo by Amihan.