CHR conducts second hearing on climate change

MANILA Groups are calling for oil, gas, and coal companies, or "carbon majors", to be held accountable for climate change that affects the human rights of Filipinos, especially the marginalized sector.

During the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) 2nd National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC) hearing on Wednesday, international legal experts, fishermen, small business operators, scientists and professors presented their testimonies on the impact of climate change on the human rights of the Filipino people and the responsibility of fossil fuel companies.

Center for International Environmental Law President and Chief Executive Officer Carroll Muffet, who is based in Australia, submitted 22 documents as part of his testimony through email.

Through Skype during the hearing, Muffet explained the legal and evidential basis for holding "carbon majors" accountable for the climate crisis.

In his presentation, he said the science of attributing climate impact has grown increasingly precise in recent years, such as communities in the United States affected by rising sea levels or communities in the Philippines affected by the catastrophic impact of more intense typhoons.

Harms brought about by climate change can be blamed on carbon majors, including "the most climate-polluting oil, gas and coal companies," Muffet said.

According to him, products of these companies added to the harm inflicted on humans and the precautionary measures they have taken to prevent such harms or risks from happening.

"As a lawyer, I can say that the human contribution to specific climate impacts is sufficiently significant that it is quantifiable and traceable, for example, when New York was struck by a major hurricane years ago," Muffet said.

"There was a difference in centimeters regarding the amount of water that rushed to the streets, subway. Science is increasingly able to sort what could be in the norm of natural occurrence and what is so far outside the norm and can be considered an unnatural occurrence and a consequence of climate change," he added.

In his testimony, Pagkakaisa ng Samahang Mangingisda Chairperson Pablo Rosales said climate change has compounded the hardships of fishermen.

"Nakakadagdag sa paghihirap ng mga mangingisda ang pagbabago ng mundo. Tinatanggalan kami ng tahanan, napagkakaitan kami ng kabuhayan dahil sa pag-init ng tubig, pagkakaroon ng fish kill (The changes in the world add to the difficulties faced by fisherfolks. It destroys our houses, it takes our livelihood because of the warming of water, the occurrence of fish kill)," Rosales said.

He said they used to blame their fellow fishermen who perform illegal fishing methods for the problems affecting their catch but the situation has changed since the late 1990s to early 2000 because of the changes in climate.

"Kung may pondong maibibigay ang gobyerno sa mga mangingisda, dahil kami naman ay seryoso sa pangagalaga sa karagatan, dahil yun ang pinagkukunan ng kabuhayan, siguradong mapopo-protektahan ang mga proyektong may kaugnayan sa pagbawas ng pagbabago sa klima (If there's a fund from the government for the fisherfolk, since we are serious about taking care of the seas, which is the source of our livelihood, the projects pertaining to climate change can be protected)," he said.

According to small business operator Jonathan delos Reyes, their income is severely affected by red tide and other occurrences brought about by climate change.

"Yung mga kababayan ko sa Mariveles, umaangkat kami ng frozen nakakahon may sulat Instik at yun ang kinakain namin kasi wala nang pera ang mga tao at ang mga business namin nanganganib mawala, ang pagbabago po ng klima na iyan ang kukuha sa aming kabuhayan (My fellowmen in Mariveles, we import frozen [fish] with Chinese characters on the box because we no longer have money and our business [is about to] disappear. Climate change will claim our livelihood)," delos Reyes said.

Expected to give their testimonies in the next hearing scheduled on Thursday are Department of Environment and Natural Resources project manager Dr. Vincent Hilomen, Buklod Tao founder Manuel Abinales, and Climate Change Commission Chief Legal Counsel Efren Bascos.

NICC is a series of hearings which the CHR launched in response to a legal petition filed by environmental, human rights, consumer welfare and people's organizations and a group of farmers, fisher folk, human rights advocates, typhoon survivors, artists, and concerned citizens. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency