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Members of peasant organizations murdered in 2017, Calatagan, Batangas, Philippines


During the first 13 months of President Duterte’s government, 58 out of the 98 victims of extrajudicial killings were human rights defenders, 94 are facing trumped up charges and are imprisoned and a total of 435 political prisoners remain in jail. Most at risk of these attacks are peasant leaders, indigenous peoples and environmental activists. Of the 98 victims of extrajudicial killings, 91 were leaders and members of peasant organizations opposing mining and resource extraction projects in defense of their land and the environment.[4]

On June 3, 2017, in Calagatan town, Batangas, farmer Lito Casalla, 52, member of Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Batangas (SAMBAT) was gunned down by unknown assailants, which  according to the group’s leaders was a reprisal for his active role against the land grabbing activity of San Miguel Corp. President Ramon Ang’s Asturias Chemical Industry over the 808 hectares of land in Balayan town, Batangas. (1). This is part of a wider conflicts as described by environmental activists from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Enironment (Kalikasan PNE) who in October 2017 joined over a hundred farmers and fisherfolk from the town of Calatagan, Batangas province in picketing the central offices of the Asturias Chemical Industries and the Department of Justice (DOJ).(1) (2)

The groups protested the recent spate of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, and harassment cases against their ranks opposing the company’s limestone mining project. On 3 September 2017 Engracio de los Reyes,  vice president of the Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangingisda at Magsasaka,  a resident of Barangay Baha in Calatagan, Batangas, was talking with his wife Ana Corita in their kitchen when two unidentified gunmen shot him from behind at around 9:30 p.m. He was 61 years old. Both SAMBAT and SMMMC oppose the Asturias Chemical Industries project. 

“There is a brutal shadow war being waged against the stalwart dissenters opposing business tycoons Ramon Ang and Eduardo Cojuangco’s Asturias mining project. Two peasant leaders have already been killed will five others have been illegally arrested, detained, and filed with trumped up charges. A despotic mine such as Asturias should immediately be closed down,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

It can be recalled that Daisy Ayo, a local member of Gabriela Southern Tagalog based in Calatagan who was also a known opponent of the mining project, was a victim of frustrated murder by unknown gunmen last 2012. Just last October 6,  2017,five locals now collectively known as the ‘Calatagan 5’—Noel Delos Reyes, Eduardo Penafloreda, Senando Marco, Allan Dimaisip, and Joseph Marasigan—were arrested by police and imprisoned over trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. All five are affiliated with the Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Baha at Talibayog (SMMBT), another local people’s organization that also opposes Asturias’ project. Previously, the SMMBT was also filed with charges of physical injury in 2008 by Asturias security personnel but was later dismissed due to lack of evidence.

“The 730th combat group of the Philippine Air Force and the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army have intensified the militarization of our anti-mining communities in Calatagan. These mercenary troops are attempting to hasten the full displacement of farmers and fisherfolks from our resource-rich lands,” said Agaton Bautista, secretary general of SAMBAT, who led the protest caravan from the mining-besieged province.

Asturias has a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which gave the company license to exploit over 808 hectares of the land for its limestone. The MPSA was issued covering the disputed area despite the peasants already having an “Emancipation Patent” over these lands.

“Ramon Ang is hell-bent on expediting the operations of Asturias so he can begin producing cement for the construction of their San Miguel Complex and Industrial Park. Asturias thus poses not only the threat of destructive large-scale mining but also a boom in dirty and destructive industrial infrastructure,” explained Clemente.

Aside from raising their demands against the controversial large-scale mine, the groups also urged the DOJ to review the recent spate of killings and human rights violations in Calatagan, Batangas. They called for the immediate release and dropping of charges against the ‘Calatagan 5’, and also demanded for an immediate investigation into the worsening militarization in communities covered by the Asturias’ project area. [1] [2]

The defence of farmers' land against Asturias Chemical Industries is a long story which has gone through the courts and other forms of mobilization. For instance, in July 2008 it was reported that hundreds of farmer-beneficiaries in the villages of Baha and Talibayog started building fences over a contested property, to protect their farmlands from a mining firm. "We are fencing our lands to remind them that this is ours and to thwart all future attempts of Asturias (Chemical Industries) to convert an agricultural land into a mining site," Virginita Malaluan, spokesperson of farmers, told GMANews.TV in an interview. [5]. The fencing project would initially cover a 9.7-hectare farmland designated by Asturias Chemical Industries as its relocation site for the farmers that will be displaced once the firm starts its mining activities in the area. Armed with hammers and head hats, the farmers began fencing the area at about 11 a.m. using cut bamboo trees and barbwires. "We will not give up our property. These farmlands are legally and rightfully ours. They would be unlawfully entering private lands should they insist on installing their equipment in our farmlands," Malaluan said. Joining the farmers were representatives from the church, agrarian reform, non-government organizations, and students from De La Salle University and Ateneo De Manila University. "I think it is not only the schools but also the parishes and churches that must unite since perhaps this is the only way by which we can achieve long-term changes in our society," said Bro. Joemari Manzano, a Jesuit seminarian, in a separate interview. [5] Also in July 2008 [6], farmers in Calatagan town in Batangas province  accused Asturias Chemical Industries Inc. of attempting to bring their construction equipment into the contested area. Asturias reportedly had a mineral production sharing agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The property in question is more than 2,336-hectare area traversing the municipalities of Calatagan and Balayan. The attempt of Asturias to bring in their construction equipment inside the villages prompted hundreds of farmers, qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries, some barangay councilors, and their support groups to barricade two points of entry in their respective areas. “Fortunately, nothing happened but the looming threat of entry of the Asturias camp into our community made our nights sleepless,” Task Force Baha-Talibayog said.[6]. On 1st December 2008,75 farmer beneficiaries of Barangay Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan, Batangas resumed their walk from Batangas to Malacanang  to assert their claim over the 507-hectare farmland and protest against its conversion into a mining area. The walk started in the San Sebastian Cathedral compound in Lipa City, with the farmers passing by Malvar town, Tanauan City and Sto. Tomas on the first day of their march. Virginita Malaluan, farmer spokeswoman, said they expect to reach Manila (in three days), where they would continue their protest actions in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform, House of Representatives and Malacanang Palace.[7]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Members of peasant organizations murdered in 2017, Calatagan, Batangas, Philippines
State or province:Batangas
Location of conflict:Calatagan
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Chemical products

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Asturias Chemical Industries has a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which gave the company license to exploit over 808 hectares of the land for its limestone. The groups said the MPSA was issued covering the disputed area despite the peasants already having an “Emancipation Patent” over these lands.(2)

Environmental activists are opposing the proposed limestone mining project owned by business tycoons Ramon Ang and Eduardo Cojuangco. Two peasant leaders, Lito Casalla and Engracio de los Reyes, have already been killed while five have been “illegally” arrested and detained after trumped-up charges were filed against dissenters. Meanwhile, Agaton Bautista, secretary general of SAMBAT, scored the intensified “militarization” of anti-mining communities in Calatagan, Batangas. He claimed that the presence of government security forces resulted in the “displacement of farmers and fisherfolks from our resource-rich lands.”

Asturias has a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which gave the company license to exploit the land for its limestone. The groups said the MPSA was issued covering the disputed area despite the peasants already having an “Emancipation Patent” over these lands.(2)

Project area:2636
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:Asturias Chemical Industries from Philippines
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Army of the Philippines
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Batangas (SAMBAT)
Samahan ng Maliliiit na Mangingisda at Magsasaka sa Calatagan (SMMMC).
Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Baha at Talibayog (SMMBT).
KARAPATAN Human Rights

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Collective fencing of land against the Asturias Chemical Industries


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Powerful chemical and cement industrial interests in alliance with Duterte's government, against local peasant movement. Killing of environmental leaders.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] Davao Today, Green group hits crackdown vs environmental defenders in Batangas. Oct. 20, 2017 MART D. SAMBALUD

[4] KARAPATAN Human Rights Update. Canada-based orgs call on Trudeau to speak out for at-risk human rights defenders in PH!topic/karapatan-updates/g5axD1I17Ws

[3]Ramon Ang and SMC ravage Batangas

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[5] Calatagan farmers start fencing land vs mining firm

July 6, 2008

[6] Calatagan farmers up in arms vs cement firm over property. July 2, 2008

[7] Calatagan farmers resume march to Malacanang for land. December 1, 2008

[1] Kalikasan's description of the events

Other documents

Photo courtesy of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Davao Today, 20 Oct 2017)

Meta information

Last update12/12/2017



Photo courtesy of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Davao Today, 20 Oct 2017)