Filipino civil society organizations laud the UN Special Rapporteur, debunk PH government’s lies at the UN Human Rights Council session

July 3, 2024

Filipino civil society representatives from the Philippine UPR Watch today lauded the report of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Climate Change on the mandate’s country visit to the Philippines. The report was presented at the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the report presented by the new Special Rapporteur Elisa Morgera, “the Philippines is considered to be a climate hotspot where strong hazards, large exposure and high concentration of vulnerable people coincide” and that “the impacts of global climate also have profound social implications.” Among the issues highlighted in the report were Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), land reclamation, and environmental defenders.

“Typhoon Yolanda has caused widespread damage but local communities have not yet fully recovered. We denounce the attacks on development organizations like LCDE (Leyte Center for Development, Inc.) that support disaster-affected communities. Threats against development organizations will affect the delivery of much-needed aid that the government has not sufficiently provided. RA 101168 should be repealed, along with the ATA,” said Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC). In May, the bank accounts of the staff of LCDE were frozen under Republic Act No. 101168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (TFPSA).

“Reclamation is one of the most urgent climate issues in the Philippines, yet the Marcos Jr. administration’s promised moratorium remains unfulfilled. We are grateful for the Special Rapporteurs’ visit to the reclamation-affected areas and for affirming the fisherfolk communities’ unresolved concerns,” said Jonila Castro, Advocacy Officer of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. Castro was abducted on September 2 last year while conducting research on reclamation in coastal communities. “The impacts of reclamation are so undeniable, but the government failed to address them, as noted in the report,” she added.

According to MC Mace Sulayao of Defend Panay Network and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente – Youth, “The Philippine government tried to invalidate the Tumanduk indigenous people’s claims, saying that they were part of a ‘CSO that is openly critical of the dam project.’ However, they (the government) did not respond to the issues the community raised regarding the Jalaur Dam.” She added: “For the families of the victims, the government claims that the massacre and arrests of the Tumanduk people are unrelated to their opposition (to the dam) adds insult to injury. Local communities have reported being harassed to silence over the construction of the dam.”

Daisy Macapanpan, an elderly woman community leader violently arrested in 2022 in Laguna said, “I affirm the report’s statement about a systematic program to coerce communities to approve dam projects. I was arrested and charged with rebellion for speaking out against the Ahunan Pump Storage Project in my hometown. This pattern persists from the previous to the present.” Macapanpan is part of the Protect Sierra Madre for the People Network’s secretariat.

“It is concerning how the Marcos Jr. administration is greenwashing the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The law has been weaponized against environmental defenders engaged in climate action. Similarly, the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) has not brought peace and stability but a climate of fear and shrinking civic space for climate activism,” CEC’s Torres said.

“The continued existence of the NTF ELCAC and the red- and terrorist-tagging of activists create a chilling effect on our exercise of rights. Similarly, the use of terror laws creates a climate of fear not only among the organizations whose bank accounts were frozen but more importantly, in the communities they serve, which are now being heavily militarized on false allegations of terrorism. These draconian legislations should be repealed immediately,” said Sol Taule, legal counsel of KARAPATAN.

“Our abduction is living proof that environmental defenders and climate activists are being attacked in the Philippines and that the culture of impunity exists under the Marcos Jr. administration,” said Castro.

“If the Marcos Jr. administration has nothing to hide, then it should allow more visits of UN Special Rapporteurs and other independent experts to the Philippines,” Castro said. She was referring to the government’s denial of the bombings in communities in Kalinga, Cagayan Valley, Lanao del Sur, and Negros Occidental.

The delegates of the Philippine UPR Watch and Filipino civil society organizations thanked former Special Rapporteur Ian Fry for his efforts to learn about the impacts of climate change in the Philippines and for exposing the truth from the ground. We also support the mandate’s recommendations namely on the moratorium of reclamation projects, the revocation of the ATA, disbanding of the NTF-ELCAC and the investigation of its past operations, as well as the judicial inquiry on cases against environmental defenders

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