Beyond the Mekong

‘Delikado’: Saving Palawan from the Chainsaws

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Beyond the Mekong | Environment | Southeast Asia

‘Delikado’: Saving Palawan from the Chainsaws

A conversation with director Karl Malakunas.

‘Delikado’: Saving Palawan from the Chainsaws
Credit: Photo Supplied

Palawan island in the Philippines has emerged as a battlefield for a tiny network of environmental crusaders and vigilantes who are trying to protect its spectacular natural resources, powder-white beaches, and lush forests, which have made it one of Asia’s hot new tourist destinations.

They are also the subject of a new feature-length documentary “Delikado” from director Karl Malakunas who pressed ahead with its production after one of the vigilantes was shot dead in 2011.

“Delikado” follows Bobby, Tata, and Nieves as they risk their lives in trying to stop politicians and businessmen from destroying what is perhaps the Philippines’ last ecological frontier.

The documentary also exposes how outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s notorious “war on drugs” has been used as a political tool to control the levers of economic and political power while claiming thousands of lives.

It is also the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which has said the drug war might constitute a crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, the clearing of rainforests to make way for large-scale tourism continues, an issue that has afflicted countries across Southeast Asia and further afield.

Malakunas spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about the making of “Delikado” and its global release, with initial screenings in the United States and Australia to follow.