25 October 2016

GENEVA — The Philippine government bared its efforts to address mining issues, preserve cultural diversity, and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, children, women and workers, during a dialogue with the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights last September 2016.

According to National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Deputy Director-General Rosemarie G. Edillon, who headed the Philippine delegation, the Philippines is pursuing a two-track strategy for mitigating the adverse effects of irresponsible mining. First is the comprehensive audit of mining sites, and second, the review of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which covers revenue-sharing to favor affected communities, rehabilitating areas affected by disasters due to mining operations, identifying “No-Go Zones,” and issuing liability insurance to cover damages in mined-out and identified impact areas.

“The Philippines accords special attention to the plight of its indigenous peoples (IPs)—the sector that is most affected by the mining industry. We are thus continually seeking to empower our IPs and communities through consultation processes, and in exercising the principle of free, prior, and informed consent.”

“By engaging our IPs, we hope to strengthen the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which mandates the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to act on cases involving the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples,” she added.

Moreover, Edillon talked about efforts of the government to promote cultural heritage and diversity. One initiative, among many, is the National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts, which disbursed PhP602.6 million in 2015 for art festivals, publications and documentation, research and development, and restoration and preservation of cultural heritage.

The Philippine delegation also affirmed its commitment to protecting and strengthening the family, drawing special attention to women and children.

“Actions are being taken on bills that aim to amend the Family Code, underscoring the need for more equality in the family decision-making process. The new administration has vowed to protect women’s rights, and also called for the full implementation of the Philippine Magna Carta of Women down to the barangay level,” Edillon said.

According to her, the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 is also undergoing legislative scrutiny to be more responsive to the realities that confront rape and potential rape victims.

Furthermore, the Philippines presented to the Committee its efforts to stop human trafficking. From 2010-2016, the convictions in trafficking in persons (TIP) increased eight times in number. The average trial duration of TIP cases has also been significantly reduced from five years to two years.

Last November 2015, the Philippines led the negotiations towards adopting the ASEAN Convention in Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP) and its accompanying Regional Plan of Action for the year 2016-2020.

Meanwhile, on workers’ rights, Edillon said that the Philippine government has already completed the Human Resource Roadmap for 2016-2022, which contains labor supply and demand information, as well as strategies for improving human resource competitiveness.

“The Philippines highly values decent work as a means to spur collective development and progress. This is crucial as we address concerns of unemployment and underemployment in the Philippines such as skills shortage and job mismatch,” Edillon said.

She also mentioned the amended Migrant Workers Act, which provides for integrated support services for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a 24/7 assistance facility for them in host countries, and a reintegration program for returning OFWs.

The recently concluded dialogue with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is part of a regular review of the 164 states that ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

It held its 59th session last September 28-29 in Geneva, Switzerland.