The environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) joined the huge International Human Rights Day protests on Dec. 10 to raise concern over the worsening plight of climate refugees under the past five years of President Aquino.
“Millions of families have been displaced by powerful typhoons and other climate-related disasters and subsequently neglected under Aquino. Their number keeps growing as the hazards rise in frequency and scale. Disaster survivors and other climate refugees suffer through the corruption-driven disaster response systems of the government. Some are even subjected to harassments, deprivation or discrimination when they organize to assert their rights,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Four of the five most destructive typhoon disasters in the history of the Philippines, including typhoons Pablo (Bopha) and Yolanda (Haiyan), occurred during the term of Aquino, accounting for a total of P185 billion in damage costs and 2,074,203 households either destroyed or badly damaged.
Homeless twice over
“More than two million households, or an estimated 8-12 million climate refugees, were displaced by these typhoons. Rehabilitation and recovery remain a pipe dream for many of the Philippines’ climate refugees years after, like the survivors of Typhoons Pablo and Yolanda. They have been rendered homeless twice over by the Aquino administration’s land-use policies and militarization operations in typhoon-affected areas,” explained Dulce.
In their inability to come up with appropriate resettlement plans, the Aquino government came out with a ‘No-Dwelling Zone’ (NDZ) policy that directly displaced 200,000 survivors from the sites of their original homes. The NDZ potentially covers a total of 10.8 million coastal citizens across the country, not yet including the upland villages that are also located in landslide-prone areas that are also considered unsafe zones.
President Aquino recently shared his personal account of Typhoon Pablo during his speech at the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) climate negotiations in Paris, France. Ironically, the Aquino government’s armed forces were causing a mass evacuation of Pablo survivors as he spoke.
“Aquino has the gall to speak of Typhoon Pablo at the COP21, even as hundreds of indigenous Lumad people from Compostela Valley, themselves Pablo victims who still have to recover, were evacuating to Davao City. The Pablo survivors were fleeing the militarization that came after they held a people’s barricade to oppose the mine exploration of Agusan Petroleum and Mineral,” said Dulce.
The Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation is a subsidiary of the Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Corporation, which covers 12,444 hectares in Compostela Town, are within the ancestral domains of the Mandaya and Mangwanon Lumad tribes.
Hold Aquino accountable
The Philippines remains to be among the most dangerous places for environmental advocates in the world, including climate refugees who have organized themselves to demand redress over their plight. Since 2001, at least 86 environmental advocates have been killed, of which 50 occurred under the Aquino administration.
“Leaders of Typhoon Pablo survivors such as Cristina Morales Jose, Pedro Tinga, and Marcelo Monterona have been killed for asserting their rights against corrupt government officials and big mining companies that abused their plight. Disaster responders such as Dutch development worker Willem Geertman and Engineer Delle Salvador were killed by military operatives in spite of having delivered aid, and precisely for empowering climate refugees to confront big mining and other development aggressions that further erode their capacities to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” said Dulce.
“The Aquino administration has accumulated a long string of cases of human rights violations against climate refugees and environmental advocates. The bloodied ‘Daang Matuwid’ must end, and Aquino must be prosecuted and jailed,” ended Dulce.
Leon Dulce is the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.