London: campaigners call for end to killings in Philippines

 A cold wind blew through Park Lane, Central London, on the night of 5 December as a small group of protesters supporting the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) held banners for two hours and chanted for the Philippine president to "Stop the Killings in the Philippines". The vigil was being held outside the Four Seasons Hotel, Hamilton Place, Mayfair, where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines was attending a meeting. President Arroyo was in London to meet with British businessmen interested in investing in the Philippines. Britain has the highest trade volume and portfolio investments in the Philippines of any European country. The president also met with Prince Andrew who has become a special ambassador for the giant mining and energy companies interested in exploiting natural resources in the Philippines. Mining has become a particular focus of environmental and land rights protests since President Arroyo passed new laws opening up mining to foreign investors. The Philippines is currently the second most dangerous country in the world after Iraq to be a journalist. It is the second most dangerous country in the world after Colombia to be a trade unionist. Over 800, church workers, trade unionists, environmentalists and peasant leaders have been murdered since 2001. Reports by Amnesty International, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the UN Commission for Human Rights have all detailed the human rights abuses, the role of the Philippines military, and the failure of the Arroyo Administration to end the climate of impunity. The CHRP has called for: An immediate stop to the political killings in the Philippines. An end to the climate of impunity. An end to British exploitation of natural resources in the Philippines until there are effective environmental safeguards and genuine consultation with affected communities. Those who speak up for basic human, social and environmental rights are often targeted by death squads. "I know they are going to kill me next, but never will I abandon my duty to God and my ministry to the people," were words of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church, a courageous advocate of human rights in the Philippines, who was shot dead on 3rd October 2006. On 3rd October 2007 Armin Marin, a local councillor and environmental activist, was shot dead on Sibuyan Island, while protesting over a proposed mining project, which has attracted British investment. The Philippines government continues to brush aside issues of large scale corruption and betrayal of public trust. Campaigners at the vigil urged President Arroyo to be converted to the cause of the poor, not to the cause of the powerful and rich and to international capital.

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