Filipino activist for human and environmental rights to visit UK

 An elder statesman and Senator from the Philippines, well-known for human rights and environmental campaigning in his country, is visiting London from 17 ­ 20 October. Senator Aquilino "Nene" Q Pimentel is Senate Minority Leader and the lone senator from "Muslim" Mindanao.

He sees an urgent need to protect the environment and welfare of Filipinos, especially as laws and rules are liberalized in the Philippines ­ particularly with the Mining Act of 1995 - to lure foreign and local investors into the country's mining industry. He has called repeatedly for a modification of Philippine mining law in order to stop a massive expansion of large-scale destructive mining in his country. In August, Senator Pimentel reminded foreign mining companies to apply "best practices" in their Philippines' operations to prevent the degradation of the environment and the violation of the rights of the people living around the numerous proposed exploration and mining sites. The country's 15% Indigenous Peoples population is especially vulnerable, as are the forests, already reduced from 97 % coverage of the country to around 3 %, so undermining water and food security.

The UK-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, chaired by the Right Honourable Clare Short MP, is hosting the visit. After being part of a fact-finding trip to the Philippines in 2006, she has drawn attention to the very substantial role the City of London has in financing mining around the world, including the Philippines, and the existing involvement in the Philippines of a number of companies with a British base of operations. There are more than 30 foreign companies with investments in the Philippine mining sector, including British-based companies such as BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Anglo American, and European Nickel. The Southeast Asian nation of more than 7,100 islands uses financial and technical assistance agreements with investors to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of mining projects. The Philippines - rich in copper, gold, nickel and zinc ­ hopes to attract around $10 billion into its mining industry by 2011, but the government has faced persistent opposition from local communities, supported by the country's powerful Catholic Church and environment groups which have highlighted the negative impacts.

Senator Pimentel is visiting London after attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU) in Geneva as a member the five-man Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the IPU. The agenda also centered on the global financial crisis and its impact on national economies, the need for worldwide financial reform and the establishment of a just and transparent global economy. Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, climate change, sustainable development models, renewable energies, freedom of expression and the right to information were also on the agenda. In Britain, Senator Pimentel will be meeting non-governmental organisations and Filipinos involved in the promotion of human and environmental rights in the Philippines.

Senator Pimentel has also blasted President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Government for inaction over extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. More than 800 Filipinos have been victims nationwide since 2001, when the current government came to power. He has urged that the recommendations of the 2006 Melo Commission on extra-judicial killings of leftist activists and journalists be made public and implemented. In June 2008, Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, reported that state security forces have been involved in many of the killings of critics of the Arroyo Administration, including mining activists, indigenous leaders, trade union and farmer leaders and civil society organization members. The military remains in a 'state of denial' over these killings, according to Alston. Military abuses have also reportedly displaced thousands of villagers in Mindanao, Samar, Quezon and Negros islands. To date, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have failed to hold any of its members accountable for these unlawful killings, including superior officers who ordered, encouraged, or permitted them.

Share this story