Manila – This WB safeguard review started almost 3 years ago, but communities and organizations in the Philippines barely understand its process and contents. And to our knowledge, this is the first actual official interaction with Philippine organizations. Yet, there has been too little time and lackluster effort to enable meaningful engagements. Meanwhile, Southern and Northern organizations expressed their struggles and frustrations with the dismal handling of the Bank of the safeguards review over the past 2 years. The WB meetings last Oct. 8-11, 2014 in Washington DC was a clear reflection of peoples’ deep resentment over the poor consultation and bad safeguards draft. And here is the Bank doing a repeat of the same failures in running effective consultations: you give us too short notice to prepare and incomplete documents to consult. No draft business procedures, no implementation plan, no translations.
The affected communities and their support groups demand that the WB safeguard policies must be strengthened to ensure real protections for people and the planet. The draft does not promise to deliver that.
We are concerned that right now, Filipinos are not overcoming poverty, inequality and hunger are increasing, our natural resources are threatened by industrialization and extractive industries while labor rights are diluted or informalized. Contrary to the Bank’s rosy narratives of Philippine growth linked with its financing, this growth is widening inequality. Bank financing has not helped in preventing the intensified privatization of commons and has contributed to the systematic dismantling of essential public services. It has been muted in dealing with the discrimination against marginalized groups such as PWDs, IPs, children, and sexual minorities who are the most vulnerable sectors. They have been threatened by projects that were partly-funded by the World Bank Group. Remember the Manila Sewerage Project? Remember Chico dam in Cordillera? Remember IFC’s support to a mining project in the ancestral domain of the Mamanwas in CARAGA? In many instances, safeguards were useful in ensuring some basic minimum levels of protection were available. But the Bank is moving to moving to eviscerate these basic human rights protections. You’re dumping people with more debts but you’re removing your environmental and human rights accountability.
We have watched with rising concern that your new “safeguard” proposals betray these expectations and represent the opposite. In this process, we believe that the World Bank is stepping back on its promise to reduce poverty.
Instead of ensuring protection of vulnerable communities and the project affected people, your draft proposes dismantling of even existing protections that have been built over decades of hard work, hard won protections that people have fought and died for here in the Philippines, including social justice laws for indigenous peoples, environment, land reform and people’s participation in governance.
We cannot remain mute spectators of this regressive journey and must convey to you the rising frustration and anger amongst the many communities that are facing these impacts from Bank-supported projects, and also within many people’s movements and supporting civil society groups, networks and alliances from all over the Philippines.
Our colleagues have watched with growing dismay – the increasingly insensitive responses to the passionate appeals by cornered and distressed communities affected by bank supported projects. I personally appealed that this consultation be re-scheduled to give time for communities and organizations to understand better the process and substance of the safeguards, but my appeal was rejected.
We are also alarmed by the rising talk of the Bank venturing into riskier investments, coming from as high positions as the WB President! Hundreds of indigenous peoples and forest dwellers organizations are terribly concerned with the proposed ‘opt out’ clause, and the dilution of protection hitherto given to biodiversity rich and protected areas. You also propose to venture into uncharted territory of biodiversity offsets! These are gambles more suited to a venture capital fund, not fit for a “Development Bank”, and the Filipinos cannot allow this to happen.
We, the dozens of people’s movements and organizations present here from all over the Philippines, and the many thousands we represent back from our communities, are rejecting this current draft of safeguards. The protections you now seek to dismantle, the safeguards that we fought for over decades – do not belong to you, they are not yours to throw away, they belong to the world and its vulnerable people.
We are also aware of a handful of saner voices from within the bank, and urge them to fight inside the system, for protecting the very rights they themselves enjoy – also for the people and communities around the world facing potential threats from this proposed dilution of protections. We strongly believe this protest action that we are compelled to take, will strengthen those voices and create a better environment for creating a really progressive safeguards policy. This will be in the interest of the bank itself, as well as for the entire Philippines, and the rest of the world.
That is why we are forced to take this action now and join our partners in the protest outside. Today we are going out of this consultation, to defend the safeguards and to stand with the World and against the Bank that is trying to destroy it! We sincerely hope that this will help a better tomorrow, within & outside.
Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Bank Information Center (BIC)
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
NGO Forum on the ADB
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)