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Groups seek concrete steps from Marcos on climate crisis, rights

MEMBERS of the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety join riders from environmental advocacy and cycling groups during the Pedal for People and Planet event on April 24, 2022 to push for more immediate action in addressing climate change impact. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

PHILIPPINE-BASED groups on Thursday said President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. failed to substantiate his climate change talk at the United Nations General Assembly, adding that he also fell short of discussing the country’s human rights situation.

Jon Bonifacio, national director of Kalikasan People’ Network, a coalition of green groups, said Mr. Marcos needs to lay down a clear platform to shield the Philippines from the worst impacts of global warming and protect environmental defenders.

“While millions of Filipinos suffer directly from the impacts of our ongoing economic and ecological crisis, all we are getting from Marcos Jr. so far are flowery statements,” said Mr. Bonifacio, who participated in climate-related activities in New York in time for the UN event.

“While Marcos Jr. included climate change in his central message, this is mere posturing as he plans on expanding the fossil-based energy industry in the Philippines,” he added.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

Mr. Bonifacio said Mr. Marcos has not yet tackled concerns about development projects that the former administration said pose threats to the environment and communities.

The Marcos government considers the mining industry as one of the major contributors to the Philippines’ economic recovery.

Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) Executive Director Lia Torres said this contradicts his “stated commitments on climate change.”

“Marcos Jr.’s push for more large-scale mines in the Philippines will only worsen the rapid degradation of our forests, rivers and seas,” she said. “Big mining is a major factor in the massive displacement of indigenous people and rural communities.”

“This will augur more disaster for mineral-rich forestlands and the rural poor communities of mostly indigenous peoples,” she said. 

Kalikasan and CEC noted Mr. Marcos also needs to address the situation of climate and environmental defenders, citing that at least six incidents affecting 119 advocates had been recorded in June alone.

The two organizations are part of a consortium of Philippine-based organizations reporting on the human rights situation in the Philippines for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines.

The Philippines, an archipelago, is the third most vulnerable country to climate change, according to the Climate Change Commission.

Mr. Marcos, 65, talked about climate change and called for respect for human rights as well as international law in a speech at the UNGA that marked his debut on the global stage.

“Marcos Jr. used the world stage at the UN General Assembly to talk about lofty universal ideals and principles that he and his family refuse to live by,” Cristina E. Palabay, secretary general of local rights group Karapatan, said in a statement.

“Marcos Jr. mentioned the UN Joint Program on Human Rights, and yet he continues to implement the policies of his predecessor Duterte that have resulted in extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearance, illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention,” she added.

Ms. Palabay reminded Mr. Marcos that the majority of killings and rights violations committed during former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s six-year term have yet to be rendered justice.

Mr. Marcos is the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who ruled under a Martial Law regime.

Maria Ela L. Atienza, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines (UP), said ordinary Filipinos and members of civil society have the duty to educate the public about the Marcos dictatorship and demand the government to preserve the institutional memory about it.

A day before the Philippines commemorated the 50th anniversary of Mr. Marcos’ Martial Law declaration, senators clashed over how the nation should commemorate the military rule, with some senators forcing Filipinos to “move on.”Ms. Atienza reminded senators that the two Houses of Congress were among the first institutions to suffer “as a result of the Martial Law declaration.”

“Congress was replaced by a rubber stamp Batasang Pambansa,” she said. “These senators are making a mockery of themselves and their institution.”

In his UN speech, Mr. Marcos said the UN human rights program is an “example of a constructive approach that puts our people, not our politics, at the center of this work.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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