Rights groups said UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry’s visit to the country “puts on center stage the sinister role played by the NTF-ELCAC and the dangerous impact of the terror law on the lives and safety of environmental human rights defenders in the country.”
By JEANNELLE UNGRIANO
MANILA – Progressive groups commended United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Ian Fry’s recommendations to the government concerning the pressing issues on climate change and human rights following his 10-day official visit in the country.
Rights group Karapatan lauded Fry’s recommendation to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
“Fry’s visit to the country comes at a crucial time. It puts on center stage the sinister role played by the NTF-ELCAC and the dangerous impact of the terror law on the lives and safety of environmental human rights defenders in the country,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
Palabay said the killings of environmental defenders peaked during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. Out of 281 environmental defenders killed between 2012 to 2022, two hundred five (or 73 percent of the victims) were killed under Duterte’s watch. The number continues to increase under Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said Palabay.
Palabay also cited the abduction of environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro by state forces, to which the NTF-ELCAC played a role.
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“We commend Dr. Fry for lending his voice to the growing numbers of human rights advocates urgently calling for an end to the menace spawned by the NTF-ELCAC and the continuing threats posed by the Anti-Terrorism Law to the people’s human rights,” Palabay added.
Indigenous peoples (IP) group Katribu meanwhile said that the UN expert gave hope to groups like them “who have been silenced and attacked in the fight for our rights to land, self-determination, and genuine development.”
They urged the Philippine government to uphold the IP’s rights, demanding for accountability, and heed the advice of Fry. They also expressed concern for Fry’s safety for being upfront on the NTF-ELCAC’s disbandment and the revocation of ATA, considering the history of red-tagged victims being abducted, arrested, and killed.
On adverse effects of climate change
Kalikasan PNE and Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch also noted Fry’s sentiments on the adverse impacts of climate change on the Filipino people especially now with the ongoing projects like the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan and Manila Bay reclamation that would only heighten the climate crisis in the country.
In his recommendation, Fry said the government should develop a strategic plan of implementation for all its climate change policies, revise the Climate Change Act and enforce a moratorium on all coastal land reclamation, among others.
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They also backed the UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for the Marcos Jr. administration to take an active role in loss and damage discussions on the international level.
“This is a timely reminder for the Philippine government to stand up against rich and powerful countries and demand adequate and appropriate climate finance for countries most impacted by the climate crisis,” the groups said.
The yearly Conference of the Parties 28 will be held this December in Dubai where the loss and damage finance facility will be discussed.
Fry was in the Philippines from Nov. 6 to Nov. 15 to look into issues of loss and damage and the impacts of climate change on human rights; climate change legislation, litigation and intergenerational justice; protection of environmental human rights defenders and gender responses to climate change. (AMU, RTS, RVO)