Pro-environment groups and human rights activists called on the Philippine government on Thursday, April 22, to prioritize “systemic changes” to protect people from the impact of the climate crisis.
On the occasion of Earth Day, various groups urged the country’s Commission on Human Rights to expedite the release of a resolution on a “climate change and human rights inquiry” filed six years ago.
The “inquiry,” which took place from 2015 to 2018, looks into the responsibility of fossil fuel and cement companies for alleged human rights harms arising from business practices that aggravate climate change.
ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, BP and Chevron are among the 47 respondents of the world’s first-ever climate change and human rights petition. The petition, which was filed before the Commission on Human Rights, now awaits its final resolution.
In a statement, the groups said a resolution from the human rights body can aid the crafting of a clear “people-centered recovery plan,” adding that the coronavirus pandemic “has magnified issues that have long been driven by climate change.”
“The pandemic has shown us how much crises are making already challenging situations even worse for our communities already suffering food insecurity, dwindling livelihoods, and other impacts of the climate emergency,” said Naderev “Yeb” Saño, Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director.
He said an “immediate and strong resolution” from the human rights body “would provide a strong rallying point to protect humanity from further climate-destructive activities by entities that put profit over people and the planet.”
“This will be the Filipino people’s legacy to the rest of the world,” said Saño.
Erwin Puhawan of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said the case against carbon majors “is simply to protect people and prevent climate catastrophe.”
“We want the [Commission on Human Rights] to release the resolution because it will give us some relief from the impacts of the climate crisis,” said Beckie Malay of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.
“It is high time we show the world that communities and people are rising up from the big polluters that are responsible for the climate emergency we face,” added Malay.
Aileen Lucero, national coordinator for EcoWaste Coalition, said “the time has come for corporate polluters to face the music and accept responsibility for the dire consequences of their fossil fuel investments on planetary health and human rights.”
The findings of the human rights body are expected to provide an unprecedented basis for future climate justice litigation and ensuing policymaking needed to help keep global temperatures below 1.5-degree celsius.
The government, meanwhile, called on Filipinos on Earth Day to join efforts to combat climate change and environmental destruction.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu stressed the need for everyone to play an active role to collectively make a substantial impact in addressing climate change and other environmental issues, especially during the pandemic.
“From individuals to communities, we can all be part of the solution in addressing climate change and many other environmental issues,” said Cimatu. “When we stop environmentally harmful activities, not only do we save nature, we also minimize the risk on the spur of new viruses,” he added.
He cited that water and energy conservation, proper waste segregation and leading an eco-friendly lifestyle are among the various actions one can do from the comfort of their homes amid the restrictions in place during the pandemic.
“When done consistently, the seemingly small things we do for the environment all together actually create a significant impact for the Earth’s healing,” Cimatu said.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, on the occasion of Earth Day, also expressed its “utmost concern” over the lifting of the ban on granting new mining permits in the country.
“We are alarmed that this can bring about massive ecological destruction and will greatly impact the health of our people especially at this time when we are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic,” said the Protestant council in a statement on Thursday, April 22.
On April 14, President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the moratorium on the issuance of new mining permits, paving the way for at least 291 existing mining applications.
The Protestant council said that many human rights violations in the country are consequences of mining as the police and military become “investment defense forces” to protect the mining companies’ interests.
“Our faith compels us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to care for and protect the harmony of oikos especially under unprecedented global health and climate crises,” read the NCCP statement.
Earth Day is a global movement celebrated by more than 190 countries to advocate sustainable action for the environment in various ways and to change human behavior.