“That means no more coal fired power plants, no major mining operations without the free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities. (And it means) Zero tolerance for harassment, intimidation and acts of violence against environment, land and human rights defenders.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A United Nations expert called on the Philippine government to make true its promise of protecting the environment.
During a sideline event held by the Philippine Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland last Nov. 9, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment David Boyd said that in light of the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution recognizing the right to a clean, health and sustainable environment as a human right, “it is important for the Philippine government to do a number of things to turn these inspiring words into a reality” for the Filipino people. Boyd said the UN resolution was supported by the Philippine government itself.
The said resolution was adopted in July this year.
“That means no more coal-fired power plants, no major mining operations without the free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities. (And it means) Zero tolerance for harassment, intimidation and acts of violence against environment, land and human rights defenders,” Boyd said in a video message.
“It’s really shocking to learn that the Philippines, a beautiful and biodiverse nation, is a global hotspot for the killing of environment and human rights defenders,” Boyd added.
Globally, the Philippines is the second deadliest country for environmental defenders, according to Global Witness Report.
Environmental groups are urging the United Nations Human Rights Council to make strong recommendations pushing the Philippine government to protect the environment.
Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan’s international networks officer, spoke at a panel discussion on the economic, social and cultural rights situation in the Philippines.
In particular, Clemente urged the UNHRC to recommend to the Philippine government to impose a moratorium on coal-fired power plants, open-pit mining and climate-risky reclamation projects, and to put in place a legal framework to hold corporations accountable for their pollution and human rights abuses.
Clemente also urged the UNHRC to recommend the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act, Republic Act 7942, and the Philippine Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Republic Act 9136, laws which he said will enable the continued business-as-usual path “that ignores the urgency of climate change, contributes to it, worsens its impacts, makes Filipino communities more vulnerable to it, and causes the number of climate refugees, already estimated at millions, to swell.”
Clemente lamented that since 2012, climate-change-induced or intensified disaster have been main cause of displacement in the Philippines since 2012. From 2008 until 2021, Clemente said a total of 44.5 million Filipinos were displaced by storms and 7.3 million by floods according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
“But the Philippine government still allows dirty fossil fuel power plants, big corporate mining, mega-dams, agro-monocrop plantations, and coastal reclamation projects — major drivers of climate change — to proliferate,” Clemente said.
Clemente added that the Philippines, is most at risk from the climate crisis according to a report published in 2019 by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
They also demand for the Philippine government to create a legal framework to protect environmental and human rights defenders, hundreds of whom have been targeted and killed by state agents in the past decade.
Just last Nov. 10, environmentalist Rodne Galicha of Living Laudato Si’ expressed alarm when he received a message that a police officer visited his home in Romblon. Galicha is currently at the COP27 event in Egypt. He is a known staunch opponent of mining in his hometown.
Three civil society organizations including Kalikasan filed a complaint with the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. The groups said that the Philippine government is not taking strong action to address the climate crisis, creating policies that contribute to climate change that worsen its impacts, making Filipino communities more vulnerable to climate change.